9 months in and 2010 is not going down as a bumper year for comedy. We’ve had the odd hit here and there with Dinner for Schmucks and Get Him to the Greek, but these have been tempered by the aberrations that were Grown Ups and well…Grown Ups. That movie was so bad that I don’t believe it’s fair to lump anything in with it. Maybe what is needed is a properly good buddy cop movie, the kind that Cop Out definitely wasn’t, and who better to provide that than Will Ferrell and his long-time cohort Adam McKay. The Other Guys marks Ferrell and McKay’s fourth collaboration after the successes that were Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers, so this is it right…the one we’ve been waiting for?
Danson and Highsmith are superstars, the NYPD’s most high profile detective duo these two play it fast and loose and leave everyone else to clean up the mess. They go into situations gun-blazing with a dynamic act first, think later strategy that yields positive results and makes them heroes. Tires squeal, ladies swoon and bad-guys run whenever they are in town. This movie isn’t about those two, it’s about the other guys. Allan Gamble and Terry Holtz are regular cops, Gamble a former forensic accountant, Holtz a rising star who saw his career implode after an accidental shooting of a major league baseball player. Now the two unlikely bedfellows are lumbered together with a chance of becoming stars in their own right when a simple corporate fraud case turns out to be so much more.
Ferrell does a great loveable loser and here it is again for all to see. His portrayal of Allan provides a great straight man for other to bounce jokes off before slowly revealing his own characters inherent comic background. It’s a restrained performance from Ferrell and it is all the better for it. Mark Wahlberg on the other hand goes balls to the wall with a completely over the top volcanic portrayal of a man on the edge. And it suits the role perfectly. Wahlberg is actually really good in this role, one which is similar to his star turn in The Departed with the hostility dialled to eleven. The sheer incompatibility of the two guys provides some of the biggest laughs in the movie. Eva Mendes is wasted, as she is asked to do little more than look pretty and spout sappy sentiments. Steve Coogan too is not given much to do and his “evil” businessman is a complete caricature. Thankfully there are some star supporting roles, especially for Michael Keaton, whose welcome addition as the boys police captain offers him a chance to show the comic ability we haven’t seen since Beetlejuice. Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson’ superstar cops are unbelievable yet real in a way that’s strange and hilarious. Their tragic demise offers two of the movie real comedic high points.
Unlike most of the McKay/Ferrell outings this movie actually has a fairly discernible plot, and at times that both helps and hinders the movie. The overreaching arc of the movie is aimed at highlighting corporate greed and scandals but this feels out of place. The over-credit infograms highlighting cases such as Madoff, AIG and the recent banking collapse would feel more at home in a documentary than a comedy. That aside the movie has some fantastic comic moments; a fight at a funeral that has to seen to be believed, two gung-ho cops meeting their maker, an explosion that defies common Hollywood practice, and almost every scene where Wahlberg despairs at the hotness of his partners wife. Credit must go to McKay for toning down Ferrell’s franticness as it benefits the entire exercise. Still it’s a shame they couldn’t find more room for Keaton.
As a collection of stand-alone comic moments The Other Guys is great, as it movie it’s simply good. Stupid in the extreme but unapologetically so and well worth a look if you fancy a good laugh.