Monday, August 9, 2010

The Other Guys (2010)

When I first saw the trailers for The Other Guys, almost every single cinema cell within me screamed “that movie will be terrible!” Granted I’d just recently suffered through the injustice that was Cop Out, and you know what they say about a movie-lover scorned… but nothing about this movie looked good to me.

Then the reviews started sneaking out, and they were trending surprisingly positive. Not just “this is okay for a summer yukfest” positive but “this is one of Will Ferrell’s best movies ever!” positive. On opening night, it was certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with a score in the low 80s. Second only to Elf (2003). That’s a better score than Talladega Nights (2006), Stranger than Fiction (2006), Wedding Crashers (2005), Anchorman (2004) and Old School (2003). Take a look at that list again. “Wow,” you might be thinking, as I did the other night. “I must have got it all wrong. This movie must be pretty awesome!”

Nope. Nope it isn’t. I mean yeah, it's alright.  But I’d say it’s worse than every one of the Ferrell flicks listed above, save Talladega Nights, which is equally hit or miss. Yes, The Other Guys is funny. Sometimes it’s really, really funny. And yes, it’s better than the promos would have you believe. But no, it is not the funniest movie you’ll see all year, or even this month.

Directed by Ferrell co-conspirator Adam McKay (they collaborated on Anchorman and Talladega, among other things), The Other Guys is sloppy stupid comedy, and thus occasionally pretty good. Ferrell stars as an NYPD desk jockey partnered up with Mark Wahlberg’s angry wannabe. Mark wants to hit the streets and get some glory. Ferrell prefers paperwork and accounting. When one of Ferrell’s paperwork cases gets them mixed up in something bigger, Wahlberg gets his way and the odd-couple cop buddies get their chance to be heroes.

The Other Guys is more straight slap-stick comedy than the classic Lethal Weapon/48 Hours franchises it idolizes, but the genre stalwarts are all here. The gun-strapping foreigner. The angry police captain (a rejuvenated Michael Keaton). The hot love interest (Eva Mendes). The economic criminal (Steve Coogan). Writers McKay and Chris Henchy do a nice job of finding new spins on these classic characters, and get good fun out of Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson as super cops of mass destruction.

But it’s in Ferrell and Wahlberg that this flick most often stumbles. Ferrell is funny as a closet danger freak who doesn’t realize how hot his wife is because every attractive woman in the world inexplicably finds him irresistible. He’s got some great moments with his bad boy alter-ego… but you can’t help but feel they could have taken it a little bit further, gotten a little bit more out of him. Comedies like this are all about pushing boundaries, finding the funny in the outlandish or the obscure. Ferrell’s detective leans that way, but the character never fully commits.

Wahlberg’s character is even less interesting. He’s just “the angry guy”, the jerk who learned ballet in order to mock the kids who took it seriously. All he does is shout and swear and look tough. He’s basically his character from The Departe (2006), only nowhere near as funny. Why? Because a.) The Departed gave him better material and b.) “the angry guy” is really just a supporting role. Spread out over the course of a feature, it gets kinda boring.

But really, you can only deconstruct a flick like The Other Guys so much. When it comes to a comedy, it either works or it doesn’t. To paraphrase Ferrell/McKay’s popular online comedy site, you’re either funny, or you die. This flick is funny enough, but never consistently or memorably. It’s sloppy (particularly when it comes to the action), but then McKay flicks tend to be. These guys struck gold with Anchorman, then found less and less of it in Talladega and Step Brothers. But if you enjoy those last two movies, you’re certain to dig this one. I mostly did, but when it comes to buddy-cop spoofs, I’d much rather watch Hot Fuzz.

Updated Summer Blockbuster Smackdown Standings:

1.) Inception
2.) Toy Story 3
3.) Despicable Me
4.) Salt
5.) Dinner for Schmucks
6.) The Other Guys
7.) The A-Team
8.) Iron Man 2
9.) Get Him to the Greek
10.) Knight and Day

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