Buddy cop comedies are a staple of American media. From Starsky and Hutch, to Lethal Weapon the movies series, to Lethal Weapon the TV series where Clayne Crawford is being replaced by Seann William Scott for its third season. They’re fun because the old-cop-who’s-about-to-retire and the young-cop-who-doesn’t-play-by-the-rules dynamic works. It leads to friction, and in the end, an unbreakable friendship. Russian director Aleksandr Andryuschenko and writer Andrey Zolotarev get that, but they sensed that something was missing. Or maybe that it had become too familiar. Or maybe it wasn’t Russian enough. So they decided that buddy cop movies would work better if the older officer was a baby. Thus, The Cop Baby was born.
It opens with a prison exit interview. Katya (Liza Arzamasova) is assessing whether Khromov (Sergey Garmash) is rehabilitated enough to be allowed back on the streets. She doesn’t know that he’s a cop who has gone undercover for the last year to gain the trust of the elusive drug lord, the Dragon. He doesn’t know that in the next fifteen minutes of film he’ll trade bodies with the baby she’s pregnant with. He insults her husband, his soon-to-be father, calling him a loser who ruined her career.
The point of view switches to her husband, an Environment Cop (at press time I’m still unsure whether this thing exists or was invented as a joke for The Cop Baby) chasing down a twelve year old who stepped in a flower patch. Oleg (Andrey Nazimov) acts as though he’s chasing down a dangerous criminal, and the movie scores the sequence with the brassy kind of jazz that was huge in the Steve McQueen starring Bullitt. The soundtrack is one of the highlights of the film going forward. It calls back to those 70s car chase action sequences, albeit with a baby driving one of the cars.
The funniest part, though, is the titular Cop Baby. After a year in his new infant body, Khromov gains the ability to speak. Voiced by Garmash, he needs to whip Oleg into shape and bring down the Dragon so he can return to his body, which is inhabited by Oleg’s baby. If you ever wanted to see a digitally rendered baby use insider cop lingo, shoot a gun, or interrogate a stripper, this movie delivers. And it’s well aware that this is the joke it’s telling. That self-awareness goes a long way toward making the movie funny.
The problem is that after the initial delight, the novelty wears off. The baby taking down the drug lord with the help of his incompetent Environment Cop Dad is only funny for so long. There are some other funny sequences (one of which is spectacular), but the movie drags with some unnecessary twists. Part of my disappointment is because I was expecting to watch a baby take down a drug lord. The baby does very little though, instead delegating many of the things that I was looking forward to seeing a baby do to his father.
The digital rendering of the child also dips into the uncanny valley. There were obvious safety restraints, and the actual baby used for some scenes couldn’t be made to speak at Khromov’s pace. There were likely budget issues as well, but the baby’s face at time rivals Superman’s digitally removed mustache in Justice League in terms of weirdness.
The Cop Baby is Freaky Friday and Look Who’s Talking meet Bad Boys or The Other Guys. It all comes together surprisingly well, if only to make a conventional buddy-Cop comedy. My only wish is that Andryuschenko had leaned into the weirdness more. He left a lot of opportunities on the nursery floor, and he should’ve rattled every weird thing he could get his hands on. But even with its shortcomings, cinema is a stranger, better place with The Cop Baby in it.
The Cop Baby is debuting at Cinepocalypse June 25, 2018.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director: Aleksandr Andryuschenko
Writer: Andrey Zolotarev
Stars: Sergey Garmash, Andrey Nazimov, Liza Arzamasova
Release date: June 25, 2018
Length: 92 Minutes