Directed by Adam McKay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Eva Mendes, Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans, Jr. with Narration by Ice-T
Written by Adam McKay and Chris Henchy
About midway through The Other Guys, detectives Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) end up front row at a Knicks game. As they sit down, one sees Rosie Perez to their right and, to their left, Brook Shields…and Tracy Morgan. Immediately, Cop Out comes to mind. The Other Guys is better than that. Way better. It is somewhat a task to describe the Adam McKay / Will Ferrell collaborations. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy worked as somewhat of a time warp to a seventies we all suspected but no one could prove was there. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby did almost the same for NASCAR, but not quite. Step Brothers was almost a complete misstep, confining the comic sensibilities of Ferrell and John C. Reilly to a mid-size suburban house and pushing a lot of talk about things that would interest a teenage boy. The Other Guys presents Ferrell with a comic foil that plays it straight enough and quirky enough to be consistently interesting, if not always funny.
Jackson and Johnson play two cops who play while leaving the rest of the detectives in the precinct to do the paperwork. Gamble is just fine with this arrangement, while Hoitz insist that he is a “peacock” and needs to be allowed to “fly.” Soon enough, Jackson and Johnson take flight and have a bad landing, leaving an open space for two heroes to take their spot. Enter Gamble and Hoitz.
One of the delightful things about Will Ferrell’s characters is the sense of arrested pre-adolescence he infuses his characters with. Allen Gamble is no exception. Relegating himself to an accountant for the police force after unwittingly performing the role of pimp in college, Allen Gamble enjoys rooting for the resident heroes of the force. He is partnered up with Hoitz, who insists he should be getting those heroic roles himself, but has been on the bench since inadvertently shooting Derek Jeter years ago. This sets up one of the best jokes in the film, one that everyone can rally around:
“You should have shot A-Rod.”
Ferrell plays Gamble reigned in a few notches. He allows him to be good at certain things, oblivious to his charms with hot women, and he is the one who figures things out half of the time. Particularly amusing is his police car being a Toyota Prius. It provides more than a few good moments, especially his constant issues dealing with Dirty Mike. The advantage of having Gamble only being a partial flake, is that he allows for others in the story, Hoitz in particular, to show their eccentricities.
The plot throws in only a minor twist, but it is manageable for purposes of moving you from comic point to comic point. Many
of the moments here are disjointed, as you would expect for a McKay / Ferrell production, but they play the story in a more linear fashion than usual. It makes some things (Eva Mendes and other women’s attraction to Ferrell) funnier than you’d think, while rendering others (the wooden gun) just a bit flatter.
Wahlberg is less engaging than you would think in this role, as he plays not so much the straight man, but just a really annoyed man with more than a few quirks. Some of the moments are good (the quiet fight at the wake, and his obsession with Ferrell’s wife). Seeing him constantly harangue Ferrell gets tedious, though.
Michael Keaton, on a bit of a roll with Post Grad, Toy Story 3 and now this, has some fun as the Captain. His continual references to TLC songs is amusing. Best though, is when he snaps out of the fog of the movie once in a while, like when he admits that Jackson and Johnson really weren’t much good at all as detectives.
Mendes is not asked to do much as Gamble’s wife, other than put up with his disappointment with her. Easy enough, she just ignores most of what he says.
As with most of McKay’s work, certain points really appeals and sticks into the spot where we keep all of our little golden comic memories. Most of it, however, should flush out by the time we’re dumb enough to try the next Tracy Morgan film.
(*** out of *****)