Cops and Robbersons (1994)

"Get in the hearse Billy." - Wiest to her character's son, who thinks
he's a vampire.

Despite what the "critics" claim, COPS AND ROBBERSONS may be the movie
that jump-starts the career of Chevy Chase. Said career needs
*something*, considering that its brightest spot (in the last five
years, at least) is a nacho chip commercial.

Survive the trailer for 3 NINJAS STRIKE BACK-- Pepto Bismal encouraged--
and you're ready for COPS AND ROBBERSONS: a nicely underplayed,
almost-charming comedy about a super-tough city-cop (Jack Palance) who
invades Suburbia to start a stake-out.

Welcome to Pleasant Valley-- a sickly sweet suburb located only a few
blocks away from the preplanned nonsense of E.T. and EDWARD
SCISSORHANDS.  The cars and homes and streets look almost alike and in
this idyllic little world lives the less-than-idyllic Robbersons.

The father, Norman (Chase), is a cop-show junkie who spends his boring
days humming TV themes and reading penal codes and driving with a police
radio. Over-eager Mom (Dianne Wiest) tries to be super-sunny, but she
can't even get the family to eat dinner together. The daughter is
dating, the older son (Jason James Ritcher) is smoking, and his younger
brother thinks he's a vampire.

Clearly, this family needs something.

Enter Detective Jake Stone (Palace). He and his partner (David Barry
Gray) want to spy on a counterfeiter (Robert Davi) living next door.
Jake is a seasoned sourpuss and his relationship with the Robbersons is
strictly hate-hate. That is, until Norman starts snooping and ends up
introducing "Uncle" Jake to their nefarious neighbor. Said action forces
Jake and The Young Man to maintain their cover for 24 hours-a-day and,
thus, eat, sleep, and shoot with the Robbersons.

COPS AND ROBBERSONS is 100% light comedy. The plot is absurd, the
characters are sketches, and the gags are mild. Even the prerequisite
free-for-all ending is a tame one, save for Chase impersonating Robin
Hood Daffy with a gag stolen from Chuck Jones.

What's fun, though, is the lazy chemistry between the leads and their
delivery of some great, goofy dialogue from writer Bernie Somers.

Chase remains *the* effortless bumbler. His blase blunder hints at the
simplicity that Peter Sellars brought to the role of *Chief* Inspector
Jacques Clouseau. Watch him roll a cigarette for maximum

COPS plays closer to ensemble comedy and Chase shares his share of
screen time with both Jack Palance and Robert Davi-- two rasping
rapscallions who get quite a bit of mileage by simply leering at Chevy
chasing his tail.  Palace doesn't have much of character, though, but he
gets to growl great lines like "Don't ever throw a cat on me." Listen
for his classic monologue about mowing grass.

(The obligatory one-armed pushup occurs in a photo montage before the
closing credits.)

Dianne Wiest doesn't get to play as often as the boys, but she's a
stitch in her few scenes and, in the finale, go nuts with gusto.

COPS AND ROBBERSONS strains in a couple places. The beginning is a
bust-- come on, *another* exploding car?  Then there's Chase doing
DeNiro doing TAXI DRIVER. Save that one for your next SATURDAY NIGHT
LIVE appearance, Chevy.  (Rated "PG"/95 min)

BOTTOM LINE:    Fluff, but good fluff.

Grade: B-

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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