Cop Out is a film smart enough to point out the absurdities of the buddy cop genre, but lazy enough to use them nonetheless. Satire is hard to pull off; and for it to work, the film itself must be legitimate. Last year’s Zombieland is a great example of a film that got it right. Rehashing genre clichés for 90 minutes and expecting people to pay for it is a creative, ahem, cop-out.

Originally titled A Couple of Dicks, the film starts off with Jimmy Monroe (Willis) and his partner in crime Paul Hodges (Morgan); two cops working for the NYPD who just sabotaged months of undercover work for the whole department. Subsequently, they’re both suspended without pay from the police force. Monroe’s daughter’s wedding is next month, and his paycheck cut has left him with no other choice but to sell his collectors’ baseball card to pay for the wedding. Things take a turn for the worse when the card gets stolen and sold to the very drug lord that the NYPD has been investigating. With the help of Hodges, Monroe must retrieve the card to salvage his financial crisis and solve the investigation while he’s at it.

Willis and Morgan have the comedic chops, but the sum of their talent is lesser than its parts. They have no rapport, and both seem to be sleepwalking through the film. Willis may have defined the cop genre but he doesn’t seem at all thrilled to be mocking the legacy that he has helped build. Morgan plays it safe and relies on his 30 Rock shtick where he cartoonishly shouts his line; which doesn’t really help when the one-liners lack the zing and punch of his sharply witty TV sitcom. William Scott is in the film for a mere blink, yet he is the only one who shines. His two scenes are the only sources of good laughs in the whole film. If only we got to spend more time with him.

It seems like an odd choice for Smith to be sitting at the director’s chair. He built his career around very personal, albeit somewhat silly films that mine their humour from unblemished sources. Like Morgan, he also has been struggling with his place in Hollywood as a cult figure and has been gunning for a crossover. 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno seemed like a sure shot but it turned out to be underwhelming. Here, he completely abandons his nerdish roots and shamelessly goes for the lowest common denominator. Unfortunately for him, it also doesn’t work.

You’ll enjoy Cop Out’s jokes, the influx of pop-culture references, and the sense of validation you’ll get when every scene unfolds exactly the way you thought it would; and for that alone it’s worth your time. Sadly, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch Willis parody his own cop film legacy could have been made into a better film.