[Cinepocalypse 2018] Review: Conceptually Great, COP BABY Is A Heartfelt Yet Disjointed Russian Mashup
The following movie was reviewed as part of Cinepocalypse 2018.
There are tons of parodies out there on established franchises or crazy skits especially coming from the Adult Swim shows. What if Terminator came back in time as a baby? What if there was a world where the chairs sat on people? What if someone took one of these ridiculous ass skits and made it into a full-length feature? Imagine the fake movie in Adam Sandler’s Funny People, “Redo” was mashed up with Robocop. You would get the weird, funny and at times disconnected Russian journey that is Cop Baby.
On the day of his biggest drug bust, an undercover cop, Krohmov, is visited in prison by a parole officer by the name of Katya. In their meeting, Krohmov completely humiliates Katya saying he can figure her out easily. She has failed at her life and married to a worthless loser of an environmental cop who got her pregnant, which is not far from the truth. Krohmov is released undercover to bust the Dragon Triad’s Drug ring, but not before bumping into an old witch who proclaims that for being so cruel he will, “crawl” back to her in a year. In a crazy random happenstance turn of events, Katya and her loser husband Oleg are out and about when Krohmov is trying to bust the Dragon Triad in their limo. Oleg, however, being an environmental cop only sees that the limo has run over some rare Russian flowers and goes to write them a ticket. Unfortunately, this raises the Triad’s suspicions who then decide to shoot Krohmov as Katya begins to give birth to her baby! Oleg rushes to the hospital to save a dying Krohmov and make sure his son is born healthy and happy. What happens though in Freaky Friday like fashion, Krohmov‘ and the baby’s mind switch bodies, giving birth to the Cop Baby! Now Krohmov in a one-year-old body must make a true super cop out of Oleg to help switch the spell and solve the witch’s riddle by finally stopping the Dragon Triad!
There’s a lot to take in here. The first 20 minutes or so is a pretty stylized fast-paced dialogue heavy flick that feels it wants to be an Edgar Wright film in its action/comedy execution. It’s funny but also a little hard to follow because I think some of the Russian slang and social life gets lost in translation a bit but it is interesting to watch this whole other country operate. Once Krohmov is in the baby’s body is when things get random and weird. I always expect a movie like this to get extremely weird but the main thing I wanted I didn’t get. I wanted to see a baby act like a super cop. This movie seems a little like Robocop, which gets a fun little nod in the movie, but at no point do we get treated to the insanity of a baby going insane on some drug lords. There’s one shot of the baby with a gun and then it’s over. You’ll have to leave the expectations of an actual cop baby at the door. Instead what you get is a strange yet tender narrative of a father learning how to be a man from a man in a baby's body that never learned how to appreciate life. It’s got some sweet poignant moments scattered throughout but it’s also just got some really random action scenes.
Going in you would hope for a crazy Grindhouse throwback like Wolf Cop but it feels very in tune with something you would see in the eighties akin to Big or Look Who's Talking. The Cop Baby is more of a narrative on Oleg and parenthood with the ideas of what it means to be a man. Krohmov as we learn more about him and he bonds with Oleg wasted his life in the pursuit of being a perfect cop and being more “manly” while Oleg aspires to be what Krohmov is but his greatest attribute that earned Katya’s love, making her overlook all of his many shortcomings is his good heart. In that aspect, the movie excels at being that very perfect eighties heartfelt movie with a supernatural twist because the two learning from each other is very sweet and as buddy cops, they really play off each other very well. However, Oleg does get a lot of the screen time and character development is more leaning towards him, which is fine but just a little disappointing considering the promised material. The Baby though is also very freaky looking with it’s CGI. Not bad, but definitely not great. Would probably forgive it more if it went more into the realm of the ridiculous but the ridiculous moments are more the random collections of scenes that transpire in the film.
At one point, Oleg gets drugged and he fights some animals in a zoo, which then for some reason ends with the cop baby fighting a Kookaburra over a slice of watermelon which is hilarious in the sense of, Why is any of this scene happening?” It leads to the mom taking the baby away from the father because of obvious child endangerment issues, but it doesn’t really seem to matter. There’s another scene that just flew over my head where Oleg is meeting with the crime bosses undercover and throws a bunch of what I assume is Russian mob terms back and forth succinctly but the terms are so foreign to me in both translation of Russian and Mob slang I had no idea what the hell was going on. It’s another lost in translation thing I guess. There's just a lot of moments like that where I was left thinking, “I feel like this is supposed to be funny, but this joke is really dragging on and on.”
As a concept, the film is really good and in the idea of a heartfelt comedy maybe in the vein of a Joe Dante film, it’s brilliant. The stylization is very good but nothing fantastic or breaking new ground in any way. What kills it is the jokes. As an action drama the comedy sells itself but most of the jokes that aren't situational and hinge on the dialogue draw on too long and fall flat. The situational jokes are mostly funny because they’re so random though and not really necessary on a narrative level. Honestly other than the two aforementioned scenes there wasn't anything else that stood out. It wants to be that heartfelt movie with the presentation of something that could have been spectacularly grindhouse in the style of Jason Eisner but doesn’t deliver on the premise.