The Other Guys
3 of 5 stars
Rated PG13/107 min.
High-concept buddy comedies always seem like they can’t miss, until you see the final result. We know that Mel Gibson and Danny Glover worked as a team of oddly paired cops and, just as surprisingly, so did Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. On the other hand, we will never see Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins packing heat and trading quips again. Most disappointing was the woeful Showtime, where Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy appeared stranded in an action comedy without laughs or excitement. One of the reasons Adam Mckay’s The Other Guys works so well is that it understands this genre and has fun surprising the audience with riffs on every action-movie cliché.
New York’s most celebrated super cops (played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) tear up the city, while the timid Allen (Will Ferrell) and short-fused Terry (Mark Wahlberg) are stuck at their desks, the laughing stock of the precinct. When the two get a lead on their first big case, they discover they need one another more than they realized. Again, it’s formulaic, but it’s the way they play off the formula that makes it work.
Mckay directed Ferrell in Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, but this is their funniest collaboration so far. Ferrell rarely stretches outside of his fratboy persona, and that’s a good thing—he’s at his best when he’s firmly in character. Wahlberg is fantastic, riffing on his Oscar-nominated role from The Departed and giving a breakout comic performance. Ferrell and Wahlberg seem utterly mismatched on the surface, until you see how Ferrell’s off-the-wall dorkiness bounces off Wahlberg’s hilariously serious dead panning. Meanwhile, Johnson and Jackson are such a fun pair to watch, it’s odd that no one thought to put them together until now. Eva Mendes is perfect playing a character too funny to give away, Michael Keaton is on a roll in another scene-stealing turn and, yes, Yankee great Derek Jeter somehow figures into the plot.
The opening set piece and all of the smash ‘em up action sequences are as flashy and spectacular as anything from Michael Bay, but are funneled through a truly warped sense of humor. It’s a little too long and the tone becomes inconsistent towards the end (there are scenes where you wonder if the filmmakers forgot they were making a spoof of cop movies and not the real thing). However, the first 90 minutes are a relentless laugh machine and the humor goes well beyond the back and forth banter of the leads. In fact, there are times—such as a sequence involving Ferrell’s ex-girlfriend and her creepy husband—where the jokes become inventively strange. We’re treated to odd but hysterical jabs at musical theater, ‘90s pop group TLC and Andrew Lloyd Webber (!).
After the hit and mostly miss Dinner for Schmucks, here’s the most quotable comedy of the summer. Be sure to sit through the end credits, which offer: A. a lesson on the history of the Ponzi scheme; B. a funny outtake at the very end; and C. the chance to hear Mendes sing the soon-to-be classic “Pimps Don’t Cry.”