August 11, 2010

Movie Review: The Other Guys

otherguys1_largeBuddy movies have been around for a long time. They come in many shapes and sizes and freely cross genre boundaries. I believe the most prevalent form of the buddy comedy is the buddy cop comedy, typified by the Lethal Weapon series. Now, take the buddy cop film and cross it with the comedy and you end up with a buddy cop comedy, which is what The Other Guys is. These films often set out to satirize the buddy cop film but often fall prey to the very cliches that set out to skewer. There are few films that successfully carry the satire thread through to the end. The Other Guys does not quite make it. It offers a lot of laughs along the way, but by the time the climax roles around you will realize that it is what it spoofs.

The last film I can recall that successfully lands the buddy cop comedy from start to finish is the brilliant Hot Fuzz. Of course this does not match up to the Edgar Wright helmed film from a few years ago, but who thought that would happen? So, let's just take it out of the equation. It is true that the comparisons are inevitable, they due both target the same genre, but aside from that they attack in very different ways.

The Other Guys is at its heart another in a long line of Will Ferrell comedies. Unfortunately, his long line of films is spotty at best. Fortunately, this movie sees him paired once again with director Adam McKay who helmed two of the comedians finest and zaniest moments in Anchorman and Talladega Nights. There is something about McKay that allows him to control Ferrell, to put the reigns on him and is able to focus his brand of mania into a fine edged weapon that cuts through to the heart of the matter, thus delivering the big laugh.


While this would have to be considered a Will Ferrell movie, it is still a buddy comedy and Ferrell needs a partner in crime. Mark Wahlberg steps into the buddy role taking on  character that appears to b a riff on his The Departed character.

Ferrell and Wahlberg play desk jockey cops. They are always in the shadow of the superstar tandem of Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. Ferrell is a fastidious lover of all things paperwork, more accountant than cop with Wahlberg playing the frustrated cop who wants nothing more than to get out on the street and bust some heads.

Well, they finally get their chance. They begin chasing down a Bernie Madoff-type baddie. Of course the investigation goes off with plenty of comical moments, but then begins to fall apart a little bit in the second half as it seems compelled to use the buddy cop formula to get us to the conclusion. This is not to say it isn't funny, but the story begins to lose steam and I found myself not particularly caring about it. I was just looking forward to the next joke.


The story is nothing that I would call special and while it has its flaws, this is still a comedy and that by and large works. Our primary duo of Wahlberg and Ferrell proves to be a good one. Ferrell is straitlaced, fastidious, loves his desk, and has a checkered past while Wahlberg is more the man of action type, a little disheartened but not lacking in the anger and desire to cause some property damage. Together they create a perfect storm of comedic destruction. They are nicely matched odd couple that are always at odds as they try to get to the bottom of the case.

While they may be the center of attention, something has to be said for the initial superstar cop duo played by Jackson and Johnson. They may not have a very big role, but it is definitely a memorable one. Most of their part can be seen in the trailer, but don't let that get you down. It is even funnier in the correct context.

The rest of the supporting cast is pretty good as well. Eva Mendes as Ferrell's unlikely wife, introduced in a great scene featuring an incredulous reaction from Wahlberg. Steve Coogan takes on the Madoff-esque role of the bad guy and is pretty funny. Let us not forget Michael Keaton who is really good as the police captain. I really like this guy and it is a shame we don't see him more often.

Bottomline. This is a fitfully funny movie with a mediocre story that succeeds in reminding us that Ferrell can be funny, Keaton is underused, and formula can be funny. It is not the funniest film of the summer, but it is definitely worth your time if you need some of the funny stuff.



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