“Cop and a Half” is to high concept what dog whistles are to canines. Pitched at an almost intolerably calculated level, this is an inert and at times irresponsible attempt to create funny cop action entertainment for kids. Children under the age of reason may sit still for it, but parents are advised to bring a deck of cards and try to get a poker game going in the lobby.
Devon Butler (Norman D. Golden II), a savvy, black 8-year-old, fantasizes about being a policeman like those he sees on TV. He can talk the talk and walk the walk. But for his fantasy to come true, he must witness a murder and become involved — and eventually bonded — to crusty, misanthropic detective Nick McKenna (Burt Reynolds). The rest, what there is of it, can easily be surmised.
The script by Arne Olsen possesses nary an original moment or believable emotion, and leaves no cliche untapped. Such torts would have been pardonable had there been even a shard of humor to the proceedings, not too much to ask given that the film is ostensibly a comedy. Leaving all that aside, the film’s stance on violence (albeit mostly offscreen) and gunplay, as well as some bathroom humor that even a third-grader would deem immature, is a bit troubling – although certainly not as egregious as in “Kindergarten Cop.”
The execution is similarly without grace, presented in a kind of neo-primitive TV style. Under Henry Winkler’s direction, the coy reaction shot reigns supreme, and there are one too many overdubs of essential plot points that were ignored during shooting. Or maybe those scenes were cut out, since the film’s transitions are about as smooth as the Sierra Madres.
As Devon, Golden is a missed opportunity. A strong directorial hand might have pulled some charm and winsomeness out of him. As it is, he doesn’t steal scenes, he abducts them. Reynolds, who hasn’t been having much fun on the big screen lately, plays the role like someone with a permanent stomachache.
Ray Sharkey’s villain had possibilities, but it doesn’t help that he seems to be in another movie. Similarly wasted are the certifiably talented Holland Taylor and Ruby Dee. Apart from Bill Butler’s lucid, sunny cinematography, tech credits are below par. The sound is consistently flat and dialogue often doesn’t match the character’s lip movements. Editing by Daniel Hanley and Roger Tweten is competent but choppy, and Alan Silvestri’s score seems to have been laid in from other movies.