There's trouble afoot in Pleasant Valley and the postcard-perfect suburb is about to burst at the seams in "Cops and Robbersons." However, the mixture of mischief and mayhem served up in the antic affair is never quite in balance. It's a tale long on intriguing ideas and always a millimeter short in its realization.
There’s trouble afoot in Pleasant Valley and the postcard-perfect suburb is about to burst at the seams in “Cops and Robbersons.” However, the mixture of mischief and mayhem served up in the antic affair is never quite in balance. It’s a tale long on intriguing ideas and always a millimeter short in its realization. Trapped in a sitcom sensibility, the film never makes the vital connection with the audience that’s necessary to spawn a hit. It should open respectably considering cast and premise but displays no signs of longevity. Despite trappings of sophistication, “C&R” is best suited to a juvenile crowd who will thrive on the obvious nature of the proceedings.
The complex set-up centers around Osborn (Robert Davi), a goon involved in forgery and money laundering. The police know he’s about to make a big exchange and have tracked him down to the quiet, residential neighborhood. Assigned to the case are grizzled vet Jake Stone (Jack Palance) and his “90210”-style partner Tony Moore (David Barry Gray).
They set up their command post in the home of Norman Robberson (Chevy Chase), who lives next door. Robberson, a police-show junkie, is ready to do his civic duty and get a first-hand lesson in police procedures. His family — wife Helen (Dianne Wiest) and three children — do not initially share nearly as much zeal for the two new upstairs boarders.
The film’s first, and most telling misstep, is its focus. While Robberson is the titular lead, it’s really Stone who takes center stage. Too old for his station, he is a snarling bear who stays on the job rather than face being alone in retirement. Somehow the Robbersons realize that under that curmudgeonly exterior beats the heart of a pussycat and they mean to force that aspect out of him by hook or by crook.
Norman is considerably less interesting. His idea of fun is sitting down to breakfast with the entire family and just talking. He’d be in ecstasy with an afternoon of tossing the old pigskin with his teenage son.
The prospect of suddenly being able to realize his inner fantasy of being a cop ought to unleash a wild man. But true to his nature, he is either too slow-witted or uncoordinated to effect much of a change. So the fun rests with Jake and Tony, who find themselves “going native” in the proximity of the suburban fold.
Stone offers Palance the opportunity to plumb deep inside his hard-boiled persona and extract a rich vein of humor and pathos. The fact that he eludes the obvious is a testament to four decades of on-the-job training. Those who are able to surprise us do best with their roles, including Wiest as a homemaker with pluck; Davi, who like Palance plays against type; and Gray, whocommands quiet authority in a thankless role.
Chase, in another physical role, should get back to more romantic fare a la “Foul Play.” He’s simply better playing smart than dumb.
Tech credits are polished if unremarkable. As with the material, everything’s been watered down and homogenized for general consumption. The sad part is that one can taste the bite and satire that must have made the “Cops and Robbersons” script a riveting read. But on the screen it’s just another easy-to-prepare, predictable microwaveable serving.
Cops and Robbersons
Jake Stone - Jack Palance
Helen Robberson - Dianne Wiest
Osborn - Robert Davi
Tony Moore - David Barry Gray
Kevin Robberson - Jason James Richter
Cindy Robberson - Fay Masterson
Billy Robberson - Miko Hughes
Fred Lutz - Richard Romanus