Eric D. Snider

Cop and a Half

(Written for a 2002 "Reviewer Rumble" tournament among eFilmCritic.com contributors.)

I think my rented VHS copy of "Cop and a Half" may have been faulty, for I thought I saw a scene in which Burt Reynolds and a young child actor were standing at the same toilet, peeing together, and then the moppet accidentally peed on Burt's foot and said, "Sorry." But surely this cannot have been contained within an actual motion picture, released for public viewing. Surely it is the product of my own sleepy imagination, and I ought to seek counseling for it.

Given that I have certainly, CERTAINLY misapprehended one of the film's scenes, perhaps I am not adequately equipped to review it. How do I know ANY of the film actually happened the way I remember it, when I have already demonstrated my recollections of it are fuzzy?

For example, can there really have been an instance where gangsters stuff a piece of chicken in a guy's mouth, then put tape over it to gag him, then send him off to his death in a warehouse -- all in full view of the aforementioned child, who looks on not in horror or panic but in excitement at witnessing a crime, for now he shall get to meet some real police officers? Surely THAT scene, with all its accompanying disturbing imagery and aftermath, cannot have made it past the discussion table.

Or perhaps there was no discussion table for "Cop and a Half" (or, as its onscreen title calls it, "Cop & 1/2"). Perhaps this movie turned out the way it did for the same reason most "family movies" turn out the way they do: It was made either by people who were never children or who have forgotten what it was like to be one. They have no concept of what makes children laugh, or how to speak to children, or what children will find entertaining.

I believe it is the former theory, that the filmmakers simply never were children. Take the director, for example, Henry Winkler. At one time, he was the coolest man in America, playing the Fonz on "Happy Days." Then, before you knew it, the show stopped being funny or popular, and then it ran for seven more years, and then it was canceled and everyone realized Henry Winkler was never actually all that cool to begin with, and we'd been duped. Is it possible Henry Winkler was never a human child, but came to earth as a full-grown product of Hollywood hype?

No, it's probably not possible; I'm sorry for suggesting it. "Cop and One-Half" has got me a bit addled. This is a film directly from hell, spawned by Satan himself and unleashed upon a wicked world as punishment from God for our allowing Burt Reynolds to continue his charade as a movie star. You will point to his critically acclaimed performance in "Boogie Nights," and then I will tell you to bite me. Did you see "The Crew"? Or "Meet Wally Sparks"? Or "Rent-a-Cop"? Well, I did. This man is not a movie star. This man is a bundle of white trash with human features that occasionally ambles onto film sets and cavorts in front of movie cameras. We ought not to be rewarding Mr. Reynolds; we ought to be medicating him, and keeping him away from society.

The movie is about a 9-year-old boy named Devon who wants to be a cop. This leads to mischief, as the time he is skulking about the schoolyard with a water pistol and accidentally squirts an innocent bystander 17 times (I counted) before realizing it's not the kid he sought to soak, but a teacher instead. (Some people would say this level of wrong-headedness would make Devon a prime candidate for the police force. I say no, because he stopped squirting the teacher before the teacher was dead.)

Devon lives with his grandmother, a nurse who frequently leaves him home alone while she works the night shift at the hospital. When a neighbor points out, accurately, that Grandma ought to be reported to Social Services, she is told to shut up, because in dumb family movies, the protagonists are always right, no matter what they do.

Anyway, Devon stumbles into a crime in progress and instantly knows more about a huge drug ring than the cops do. This makes him valuable, but the only way he'll give the cops the details he overheard is if they make him a cop. Since this movie takes place in a world where there are no insurance risks, the police comply and partner little Devon with Burt Reynolds' character, who of course hates kids.

I can relate. Devon is played by a lad named Norman D. Golden II, and I don't wish to sound churlish, but I wish unholy, fiery death upon him. His performance in "Cop Half" is annoying and broad, like he not only cannot act but is also unfamiliar with what acting even is. (Since "1/2 Cop," the only things he has appeared in, I suspect, are police lineups.) He is the most joyless and unfunny element of this joyless, unfunny movie. May he die a thousand times.

Most of the jokes in the film are nothing more than Devon saying things cops say, and we're supposed to find it funny because he's so young and small. Which means that if Burt Reynolds had been partnered with, say, a sandwich, the film would have worked just as well. Even better, maybe, because then Burt could have eaten the sandwich, and eating sandwiches is funny. And that urination scene almost certainly would have been eliminated, or at least greatly altered to allow for the physical differences between sandwiches and little boys. In fact, I just got a great idea for a movie....

Grade: F

Rated PG, mild profanity, dangerous situations

1 hr., 37 min.

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