February 5, 2010

Hope for Kevin Smith's 'Cop Out'

I had high hopes for Kevin Smith's Cop Out (previously titled A Couple of Dicks) because I was intrigued by Smith directing someone else's script (for the first time in his career) and the cast of Tracy Morgan - who I am huge fan of - and Bruce Willis. And then... the trailer came out. And the trailer wasn't funny. And, perhaps most interestingly, the trailer made no mention whatsoever of Kevin Smith being the director of the film. During his Mirmax days, Smith being the director was the bulk of the marketing for the movie. His "View Askew" production shingle (which he's apparently shelved) brought it's own built-in audience, and that audience knew exactly what they were getting - Smith's trademark brand of raunchy humor with heart. (A formula that Judd Apatow has been doing better - and more successfully - for the last few years.) To see a Kevin Smith movie being marketed without any mention of Smith was quite telling. But to see a Kevin Smith movie trailer without laughing was much, much worse.
Smith has always been such an accessible filmmaker; he's seemed to be acutely aware of how cool it is to be a Hollywood filmmaker and he's let his let his fans into his world very graciously from the beginning. Smith does his popular speaking tours; which have spawned the Evening with Kevin Smith DVD series; where he shares every tidbit of his life and his work. (There's some absolute gold in these too. His story about working with producer Jon Peters on a screenplay for what was then to be Superman Reborn is hilarious and his lengthy description of his time in Prince's employ is an instant classic.) He also has popular podcasts (which he's re-branded as smodcasts) which are very funny - and very personal - and he's written books that share every detail; down to his bowel movements and jerk sessions; of his his life. It's hard not be a fan of a guy as humble, honest and gracious as Smith.

All of that being said, it's been a while since he made a good film. Jersey Girl was sappy and trite, and his most recent effort, Zack and Miri Make a Porno just wasn't funny despite the excellent cast that included Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson and Elizabeth Banks. His earlier stuff, had a raw, gritty charm, but as the years passed, more and more his screenplays seemed to be derivative. Every character started to sound the same and it seemed he was more interested in having characters talk about filthy things then actually telling stories. Perhaps most troubling was the fact that his characters always seemed to be angry. There was always a bubbling resentment at play, and they just weren't fun people to spend two hours with anymore.

So when word came out that he was going to step behind the camera and shoot a film from someone else's script, I thought it was a wise move for Smith. There's no question he knows funny. If you watch Clerks, Chasing Amy or Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, it's quite clear he has comedic chops. If he could sign on to direct a funny script and sprinkle in his own funny and punch up the dialogue where need be, it could be a great combination and it could jump-start his directing career. But the first trailer for Cop Out arrived with a thud.

But fear not! The red band trailer has arrived, and this is always where Smith shines. Nobody wants to see a PG-13 Kevin Smith flick, so the "Restricted" trailer would show more of the traditional Smith stuff... but would it be better? The answer, I'm pleased to report, is that it is dramatically better. There's hope yet for a Kevin Smith comeback of sorts.

Check out the original, unfunny trailer, below:

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