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‘Cop and a Half’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 02, 1993


Henry Winkler
Burt Reynolds;
Ray Sharkey;
Ruby Dee;
Holland Taylor;
Frank Silvera;
Norman D. Golden II
language and violence

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"Cop and a Half" manages to be offensive on so many levels that it deserves mention in the Guinness Book of World Records under cultural child abuse. A laborious action comedy with Burt Reynolds and a cute little black kid (Norman D. Golden II), it's a "Lethal Squirtgun" aimed squarely at the impressionable swing-set. Bang, bang, you're brain-dead.

Like buddy cop movies for adult audiences, this one turns mostly on violence, bathroom humor and the genre's new racial cliches. Director Henry Winkler asks family filmgoers to chuckle at the destruction of property, police brutality, threats aimed at the tiny protagonist, and a bedtime story that ends: "They don't have much hope for him and they're going to have to cut off his testicles." All this and it's politically correct too. At least, it thinks it is.

Actually, it takes place in that equal opportunity never-never land where the chief of police is a woman (Holland Taylor), all the bad guys are white, and more than half the cops are black. (The bad news: At least one of the law-abiding black folks is tending to her watermelon patch.) Eight-year-old Devon (Golden) lives in this skewed universe with his granny (Ruby Dee), a nurse who unhappily leaves him home alone so she can work overtime at the hospital. The little fellow spends the lonely hours watching TV cop shows, dreaming of becoming like his heroes.

The youngster realizes his dream when he witnesses a murder and refuses to reveal what he knows unless he gets his own badge, handcuffs and a chance to solve the case. The savvy tyke is teamed with a psychotic hotdog, Nick (Reynolds), whose partner got killed and "since then he won't let anyone get close," as a colleague needlessly explains. Most folks would send their kids to stay with Woody and Mia before they'd let them get in a squad car with Nick, but Devon's grandmother agrees to the arrangement. Voila! It's "Diff'rent Strokes" on wheels.

When it comes to finding an audience, the oafishly written "Cop and a Half" will be lucky to do as well as the equally misguided kiddie thriller "Kindergarten Cop." In that movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger's cop didn't threaten his charges' little bones; he taught the kids to march. Reynolds, who looks like he wished he had stayed back in "Evening Shade," is fighting a losing cause in this brutish role. And the child, well, let's hope he decides to go back and finish grade school. At least there he would be exposed to more mature influences.

"Cop and a Half" is rated PG for language and violence.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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