Worse than "cop with an ill-suited partner" is the odd glut of '80s "cop with a who-gives-a-shit partner." Like Turner & Hooch and K-9. Cop And A Half. Theodore Rex. That last one partners Whoopi Goldberg and a dinosaur. A goddamn dinosaur. In the '80s, no one gave a shit. Was it all that cocaine? We can never know but I'll go on record saying yes. Definitely all that cocaine. And for Theodore Rex you can assume that was some badly stepped-on shit with a lot of additives that someone's dealer found in a bag in an alley.
New Line Cinema
Then they wrote the subsequent scene into the script.
The modern cop movie has abandoned the proud tradition of teaming one super cop with one ass clown. Instead it's one kind of goofy cop with another, differently goofy cop. For instance, Ride Along. Ice Cube playing the role of Ice Cube is partnered with Kevin Hart playing the role of mostly an idiot. Contrast this with Central Intelligence which partners The Rock as vaguely uncomfortable The Rock with Kevin Hart as slightly less of an idiot. And yes, I know in Central Intelligence they're not technically cops but come on. It's a buddy cop movie.
The Jump Street movies were so lazy in their cop partnering dynamic they didn't even bother to really hash out personality traits as opposed to going with partnering the unbearably handsome Channing Tatum with the unbearably Jonah-y Jonah Hill. Jonah Hill is Channing Tatum's Theodore Rex.
A Lack Of Bumbling Jackassery
The most stark and head-scratching difference between an '80s cop movie and a modern cop movie is the proliferation of jackassery. Modern movies are just rife with shenanigans that would never pass muster in '80s flicks. Sure, Axel Foley was a wiseacre, but even Judge Reinhold was a fairly competent character in the long run. Beverly Hills Cop and others like it were action movies with comedy in them. Now look at Central Intelligence again. You have a chubby naked kid with The Rock's face CG'd onto him dancing around making everyone feel weird. Then when The Rock shows up in his carved-from-solid-marble current iteration, and he's still an off-putting weirdo.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Not that I'd say that to his face.
Modern buddy cop comedies put too much emphasis on the goofball comedy part. It's like they looked at Theodore Rex and figured that was the absolute pinnacle of just silly ass shit and could never be repeated. So instead, we have to keep everyone "real" but just make them more and more preposterous as people. Is there anyone in the world who is actually like Chris Tucker's character in the regrettable Rush Hour franchise? The only way he'd ever get hired as a cop would be if the chief was actively experiencing a mescaline freakout during the interview process and mistook Tucker for a genie of some kind. How could Melissa McCarthy's character in The Heat become a detective? She has a storehouse of illegal weapons in her home and clearly suffers some kind of antisocial personality disorder.
For the sake of comedy, the modern buddy cop movie wants you to believe two people who have no business owning firearms are thrust together in a way that allows them to overcome entire crime syndicates despite how they're presented in a way that makes you suspect they couldn't care for a goldfish without starting a fire. Sure you can laugh at Central Intelligence, but wouldn't your marrow freeze in your coccyx if you thought for a second America's intelligence capabilities were in any way governed by, monitored by or influenced by this?
Warner Bros. Pictures
They CG'd The Rock's actual nipples on as well. He insisted on it.
The big difference between then and now seems to be essentially that the characters in '80s cop movies were never the butt of jokes. Eddie Murphy was always sympathetic because he seemed like a good guy, even when he was a felon in 48 Hours. And maybe he got tossed out of a plate glass window, but he didn't fall through a plate glass window. Kevin Hart would fall through a plate glass window. Martin Riggs would be the one who pushed him.
Are modern buddy cops boobs because it makes them more relatable than mildly sociopathic super cops in the '80s? Maybe. I don't want to relate to super cops, though. I want to watch Riggs dislocate his shoulder 15 times to escape implausible torture situations and then violate any number of laws to get vengeance and only be held accountable in such a way that he's looked over for a promotion. Also, maybe I want to see dinosaurs. Like Lethal Weapon 5 should have dinosaurs.
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