Any film whose first notes of dialogue, soundtrack or spoken, begin with “I’m a real wild one,” is surely upping the stakes for what audiences should expect. A wildcard. The real rebel of the otherwise safe realm of film. Someone to take on the conventional narrative formula of child-friendly entertainment. Lou Diamond Phillips is far from his high point of La Bamba, but at least he has still found work. Cop and a Half: New Recruit sees him take on the sequel to a Burt Reynolds comedy we’d surely been longing for. It’s a rather sudden surprise to see that Reynolds is not reprising his role. Let’s face it, he wasn’t up to much in his post-Boogie Nights phase. Nor was he up to too much before that.
Instead, it’s up to Phillips, Lulu Wilson and Wallace Shawn to pick up the pieces of a first feature that few have heard of and fewer have enjoyed. They do the best they can. They truly, truly do. But there is little that they feasibly can do. Nor is there anything Jonathan A. Rosenbaum can do with his direction. It’s a static film that lingers on as nonsensical. Padding for parents who are desperate to entertain kids, and a paycheck in the pocket of the cast and crew. Who can blame them? Not all art is good art. But it is a stretch to call Cop and a Half: New Recruit either art or entertainment. Its leading issue is just how unsavoury the whole set-up, subsequent scenes and fallout of banal plot points is.
Much of Cop and a Half: New Recruit is far too obvious, even for children. Subliminally redundant messaging, a Blue Lives Matter phone case for the kid that clearly wants to be a kid, with a budding young sidekick and an idol to look up to. There is a clear vision of what Rosenbaum wants to deliver to impressionable young audiences, and even with the lack of quality, it is still disgusting to see him paste a setlist of beliefs he feels children should inherit. Slow chase scenes, overacting extras and awkward, clunky narration with gags that don’t land because they’re too busy trying to make some lazy point to make. Not even Shawn comes out of this one looking too good, playing up the high-whine of his voice for “comedic effect.”
Demented, antagonistic and licking the boots of the old-hat role models of the 20th century, Cop and a Half: New Recruit is unavoidably keen to represent the long arm of the law as chirpy and friendly. It embodies that of Wilson, whose performance can be disregarded now that she has found her way into more rewarding roles like Becky. Well, more rewarding when compared to Cop and a Half: New Recruit. “It’s a thankless job,” says the self-appointed child police officer, as heavy rock plays and introduces the real cop of the hour. Even then, he doesn’t look the part either. Phillips looks like he’s stumbled onto the set in his own clothes instead of a real powerful arm of the law. But that is not the point of Cop and a Half: New Recruit, there doesn’t seem to be one, other than to serve and protect dated ideals for children to live up to.