by HELEN GEIB
Like most parodies The Other Guys is hit or miss, but it’s on more than it’s off.
NYPD detectives Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are “the other guys” to department top cops Danson (Dwayne Johnson) and Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson). A transferee from forensic accounting, Gamble is scorned for his devotion to paperwork, while Hoitz is a pariah because he accidentally shot Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium. Although the mismatched partners don’t get along with each other either, they must step up to the plate after Danson and Highsmith pull a Wile E. Coyote. Their ability to work together receives its true test after they stumble onto a massive financial fraud scheme. The investment guru behind the crime-in-the-making is played by Steve Coogan, the captain Gamble and Hoitz drive to distraction is played by Michael Keaton, and Eva Mendes is Gamble’s wife.
The Other Guys is consistently “on” in the action sequences. The subject of the parody is the buddy-(super)cop action movie. That makes action and over the topness required elements, and the movie delivers both. There are multiple car chases, a many-guns-a-blazin’ firefight, an explosion, and some hand to hand fighting. Some of the scenes get laughs by being just plain ridiculous, like the exploits of Danson and Highsmith. Others prompt funny dialogue or bits of business, including a great bit involving golf balls and irate Chechens that I wouldn’t spoil for the life of me. Director Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) does some fun things with the camera and editing, playing with freeze frames, slow motion, overhead shots, and other staples of the overblown Hollywood blockbuster. The music also cues some laughs when it comes in as an ironic counterpoint to the visuals.
One of the action scenes involves Hoitz showing off some flashy martial arts moves. It’s part of a running joke that reveals him to be a man of many hidden and often unexpected talents. Gamble is similarly revealed to have a hidden past and a repressed wild side. The Other Guys could be summarized as a collection of running jokes, which contributes to its loose, anything goes vibe. The plotting is also loose; “working the case” something of a pretext for moving the comedy team around the city and into funny situations.
Will Ferrell usually makes movies that don’t interest me, with the consequence that this is only the second time I’ve seen him (the first being his very good work in an atypical role in Stranger Than Fiction). While I’m not going to rush out and catch up on his oeuvre, I can see where his fans are coming from. I laughed even more at Wahlberg’s performance. He’s developed into a remarkably adept straight man, and the days when I couldn’t understand why he had a successful film career are long gone.
Although most of the humor is in sight gags and the performances, the script (by McKay and Chris Henchy) does contribute some funny lines. Overall more of the jokes work that don’t, and the brisk pacing carries the film quickly past the latter.
Possibly Related Posts: (Commentary Track generated)
Mark Wahlberg was funny earlier this year in Date Night.