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(EW.com) — I’m always up for a new Kevin Smith film, because whatever lark he’s tossing off, you can usually count on enjoying the sound of his Preston Sturges-meets-Ron Jeremy dialogue, a form of wordplay so scrappy and alive that it could never have come out of some Hollywood hack’s corporate screenwriting software.

In “Cop Out,” however, Smith has set himself a special challenge: The film is a barely satirical homage to the interracial buddy-cop flicks that flourished in the 1980s, and that means Smith is trying to mimic some of the most machine-tooled wise-guy banter in the history of cinema.

I hoped he’d take the genre and run with it, injecting his own overripe, nearly scholastic flights of profane observation. Instead, working for the first time from a script he didn’t write (it’s by Marc and Robb Cullen), he mimics everything about movies like “Running Scared” and the “Lethal Weapon” series that’s now best forgotten: the slovenly plots and obligatory jackhammer action (which Smith can’t stage worth a lick), the fake-outrageous atmosphere of preening, strutting misbehavior.

What he misses is what made those movies fun and, in the case of “48 HRS.,” classic: the testy, back-and-forth hostility between black and white crime-fighting partners.

As the veteran New York police duo of “Cop Out,” Bruce Willis, all coolheaded reserve (he’s so Zen here he barely smirks — or acts), and Tracy Morgan, who never stops shouting in baby-voiced hysteria, go through their shtick like buddy-comedy robots.

There’s never a moment of real abrasiveness, or anything else, between them — which may be a sign that this form has outlived its relevance. In the Obama era, the notion of blacks and whites having to share an ironic, fraught-with-tension bond seems quaintly dated.

Without that heightened racial antipathy-turned-camaraderie, there’s not a whole lot to “Cop Out” besides watching Kevin Smith pretend, with a crudeness that is simply boring, that he’s an action director making a comic thriller about cops versus a Mexican drug gang (yawn).

The movie’s one bright spot is Seann William Scott, who plays the thief who steals the baseball card that Willis needs to finance his daughter’s wedding.