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The Other Guys (2010) **

August 8, 2010

written by: Adam McKay & Chris Henchy
produced by: Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Miller & Patrick Crowley
directed by: Adam McKay
rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material)
107 min.
U.S. release date: August 6, 2010
The fourth comedy collaboration with actor Will Ferrell and writer/director Adam McKay gives us their absurd take on the buddy cop action genre. This time, Mark Wahlberg steps in for the John C. Reilly role, teaming up with Ferrell to deliver some comedic chaos amid urban explosions and plenty of collateral damage. McKay and Ferrell’s three previous films have gone from classic hilarity (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”) to grating overkill (“Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby”) to crude stupidity (“Step Bothers”), all free rein for Ferrell to establish his manic man-child antics. So, will this movie be more of the same, just with a different cast and genre?
These buddy cop movies take place either in L.A. or New York City and this one places us in The Big Apple, infested with the requisite criminal lot. Both the proverbial (gang-bangers) and the latest (Wall Street money grubbers) are present and accounted for here and all of them keep New York’s finest quite active.  But it’s the city’s supercops, Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson  (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), two one-liner dropping, egotistical butt-kickers, that get all the credit when scumbags are apprehended. While these two are racking up property damage from their high-speed pursuits, they leave all the paperwork and bureaucracy to….the other guys.  
That’s right. “The Other Guys” are those cops we often see in the background, typing out reports and making sure all the policies and procedures are followed. The only action desk jockey Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) sees is when he volunteers to file a report on these supercops crime-busting adventures. He doesn’t mind though. It’s a stable and safe workload that Allen is more than content with. On the other hand, his temperamental partner, Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) though, has had enough. He’s been stuck with a desk gig ever since he accidentally shot Derek Jeter, for which he is now known as The Yankee Clipper. Longing to make up for that debacle and bored out of his mind, Terry wants in on the action and is determined to drag Allen out in the streets with him (kicking and screaming, of course) into the action. 
When Allen discovers a scaffolding code evasion, something he considers to be a big deal, he and Terry inadvertently find a case of financial fraud that becomes bigger than anything they’ve ever imagined handling. The culprit at the heart of the case is David Ershon (Steve Coogan), a smarmy businessman who promotes consumer excess, with ties to another Wall Street big-wig (Anne Heche, in an uncredited role) and getting anything to stick to this shady suit is no easy task. Not only do they have to deal with some heavy security, led by a huge Australian dude (Ray Stevenson), but they also have to work some things out with each other if they’re ever gonna get anywhere. In requisite buddy-cop formula, Allen and Terry must come to terms with insecurities, past scar tissue (as well as office antics) and come to a mutual respect for each other, as they pursue justice.
There are plenty of hilarious moments here but like their previous movies, McKay and Ferrell don’t know when to ease up and let the situations the characters get into work on their own. Initially, Ferrell and Wahlberg produce some great moments together. Allen’s sensitive meekness is a great match for Terry’s boiling anger but McKay isn’t satisfied with letting the actors play with those characteristics. A stupid backstory about how Allen was a pimp named Gator in college is forced and provides the opportunity for audiences to see the Will Ferrell they paid for. Seeing Wahlberg in this role was a welcome surprise and I was hoping to see better delivery than in his recent work. For the most part, he was dead-on, but unfortunately, his surprising ballet moves were more impressive than his character proclaiming in more than one outburst, “I’m a peacock! I need to fly!” which is both inaccurate and unfunny. After awhile, Wahlberg’s angry explosions and Ferrell’s inane digressions grew tired and sadly took away from what could have been room for more interesting character development. If only they would’ve stayed in character.
The best part of the this movie is the concept. Although seeing Jackson and Johnson brazenly run around together was quite fun, the movie isn’t about those alpha males. It’s about the cops on the sidelines. Who are these other guys? What’s their story and how did they get where they’re at? Do they like where they’re at? Rarely do they take the credit for any major busts. Rarely do we see them in on the action, until now. While we have seen these guys in the “Beverly Hills Cops” films, with the classic Rosewood and Taggart characters, it is still fun seeing McKay and Ferrell take a shot at it.
The other great thing this movie has going for it are the supporting players. As the TLC-quoting police captain (and part-time Bed Bath & Beyond manager) police captain, Michael Keaton is a hoot. It’s great to see him have so much fun here. He reminds us how effortless his masterful comedic choices are. His recent work has been great albeit seldom seen, this summer, with “Toy Story 3” and now this, re-establishes Keaton as one of the great ones. From his facial expression to his body language and line delivery, Keaton was a perfect casting choice. Another delight was watching Eva Mendes play Allen’s “ball and chain”and seeing Terry’s introduction of her was a highlight. It’s obviously hilarious to see a hottie like Mendes with Ferrell and the movie knows it and deservedly plays it up throughout. 
Those two make up for the most annoying supporting actors, Damon Wayans Jr. and Rob Riggle, playing the expected antagonistic detective rivals. These guys gave annoyingly strained performances which always come up dull in their stereotypic portrayal. Again, better competing colleagues from this genre come to mind like Forest Whitaker and Dan Lauria in “Stakeout”, but like much of the comedy here, McKay had to overkill these characters.
Despite consistent laughs, “The Other Guys” has enough glaring distractions to pull a viewer out of the film. There’s the odd jab at internet compared to print media in the beginning of the film that seemed odd. Also, there’s this consistent commentary on the financial meltdown that hit the U.S. economy recently. Really? A little late on that thread, guys. I get how it’s supposed to tie-in with Coogan’s role (a Bernie Madoff spoof) but the references become increasingly grating after a while. This is especially true at the end credits, as we see an animated rundown of stats about how AIG and Goldman Sachs screwed the nation, all to the tune of “Pimps Don’t Lie”. This out-of-place public service announcement is for those who sit and watch the end credits role? Thanks a lot! Oh, and don’t bother with the needless and unfunny end credit post-scene which basically proves that you can leave when everyone else does.
At least McKay has good variety in this cast and they are, for the most part, fun to watch. McKay as director employs the needed chases, gunfire and explosions that you come to expect with a movie like this. But I prefer both the time he took in the little moments with just Ferrell and Wahlberg sitting a their computers over all that. I also enjoyed a stylized “drinking with Terry” slo-mo, freeze-frame sequence which  was quite clever and original.
As a side note: the streetwise narration by Ice T didn’t seem out-of-place, just another added unnecessary element.  It made sense to have the great Bill Curtis narrate “Anchorman” but there was no need for narration here.
As much as writer/director Kevin Smith got burned for his buddy-cop homage “Cop Out” from earlier this year, I’m in the minority who thinks his film is funnier than this one. It clearly has more style and fun with the typical conventions and also overindulgance in needless subplots, as we see here. Between Smith’s film and the Edgar Wright’s classic, “Hot Fuzz”, I would say any additional comedic send-ups of this genre can be put on indefinite hold. But, the opening weekend box office will undoubtedly prove otherwise. Clearly, die-hard Ferrell won’t be deterred.
Regardless of all the hard work present, the tiring exposition and uneven jokes left me wanting something else. Adam McKay should stick to comedy while steering clear of de-railed characterization.  Will Ferrell would do well to remember that a little is enough. I believe the two of them can still pull off another “Anchorman” in the future but I doubt they would listen to what I have to say. “The Other Guys” is a boisterous and nutty time that delivers unnecessary subplots for characters that already entertaining enough, providing inconsistent laughs and an unfortunate digressing tone. 

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