A buddy-cop movie that doesn’t feel like a cop out.
Sometimes I have sat and watched a Will Ferrell comedy amazed that the guy got a degree at the University of Southern California. After all, this is the guy that brought the phrase “strategery” to the public’s conscious when he impersonated then President George W. Bush on Saturday Night Live. When he made the transition to film, it took him several years to break out. That breakthrough came in 2003 with Old School, Elf (to date his most successful feature) and Anchorman, the film that marked the debut of Adam McKay as a director. Previously, McKay was a head writer for SNL where he and Ferrell would hone their talents together. Seven years and three movies later, they return to crack audiences up with The Other Guys.
As the second buddy-cop movie of year, following Kevin Smith’s Cop Out, McKay establishes the comedy’s tone by quickly lambasting the contrivances of action movies – specifically, what is expected in a car chase sequence – during the opening credits. The scene alone is worth the price of a matinee and it doesn’t even involve the top-billed stars. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson) are the hotshot detectives of the NYPD and darlings to the media because of their bravado – never mind the millions in property damage to the Big Apple they inflict just to apprehend suspects in what amounts to a minor drug bust. Jackson shouts out one-liners like nobody’s business and The Rock finally remerges from his family film funk to get back into an action groove. This duo considers itself invincible, free from bodily harm or injury. But when selfish pride gets in the way of common sense, a void is left and a new pair of hotshot detectives needs to step up. The least likely pair to play super-detective is police accountant turned paperwork desk jockey Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and his partner, Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). Allen is content with typing up reports, but Terry, who can be combative, wants to hit the streets and solve some cases. Terry, however, has been deskbound since he discharged his firearm and injured a certain shortshop for the New York Yankees. He’s been called the “Yankee Clipper” ever since. Instead of heading up homicide investigations Allen is focused on a fraud case involving Sir David Ershon (Steve Coogan), a well-connected businessman who professes the need to buy unessential things instead of save. As the case starts to develop and dots start connecting, Allen and Terry start to bond. This is after the two have had a number of “fresh starts” to reset their partnership.
Rarely do comedies try to be topical. The fraud case that Allen and Terry are embroiled in provokes notions of our country’s financial instability. The David Ershon character seems inspired by the Bernie Madoffs of the world, but neither he nor the case against him is the point of The Other Guys. It just adds to the laughter.
In their three previous outings Adam McKay allowed his star to display his aggressive behavior from the get-go, but here his aggressiveness is timid, only becoming combustible through force of will. When McKay loosens the reigns so Ferrell can dial up the silliness, his milquetoast personality is gone, replaced by a persona that is both new to Ferrell’s comedy repertoire yet conventional to characters he’s played in the past.
Mocking buddy-cop movies through verbal riffs, slapstick and absurd action scenes, The Other Guys adheres to all the characteristics of what makes a buddy comedy and also succeeds in being Will Ferrell’s best comedy in years. For an action-comedy, the punch lines feel like body blows on the audience. Gasping for air because of too much laughing, the material, while recycled, is fresh because of how it is presented. The pairing of Ferrell and Wahlberg may not be inspired, and the chemistry wanes at various times, but somehow it works. When their comedic timing clicks it clicks. The best may be the scene where the two verbally spar against each other in animal metaphors. And the appearance of Eva Mendes, showing up as Ferrell’s wife, rewards us with a dumbfounded gaze from Wahlberg. He can’t understand why she would want to “feel the vibration” with a square like Allen.
Also, be sure to stick around and watch the closing credits. If the images had been played at the onset you would have had the impression that it was the lead-in to a new documentary by Michael Moore. Don’t worry; you’re not being punked.
Director: Adam McKay Notable Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr. and Dwayne Johnson. Writer(s): McKay and Chris Henchy
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!