The incompatible buddy cop movie has been beaten to death. You can thank Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, their umpteenth sequels and every other knock based off of those movies you can think of for that. Adam McKay, the man behind such comedic wonders as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, with The Other Guys, believes there is some life in the genre yet. He almost made me a true believer.
The main issue with the movie is it has a tendency to drag and it relies too heavily on the aggressiveness of Mark Wahlberg’s character, Terry Hoitz, to be funny. Even though he gets some zingers in there (some of which are very good), every sentence out of his mouth, no matter the scenario, is yelled and strained. It may be because of a good reason, though — he’s been roped to desk duty after shooting Derek Jeter during the World Series; his new partner, Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell), is a complete bookworm dork; and all the accolades his precinct gets go to resident bad-ass detectives Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson).
It’s during the first twenty minutes or so of The Other Guys, when Highsmith and Danson are introduced, that the bulk of the laughs can be found. These two guys ham it up, with over the top antics and attitude (believing themselves to be too cool to die), culminating in one of the funnier — and unexpected — movie moments in which their self-thought invulnerability is tested.
The next 80 or so minutes, which pit Terry and Allen against scaffold law violator David Ershon (Steve Coogan) and other nefarious wall-street types, produces only a few knock-out laughs. One can be found when Terry is first introduced to Allen’s uber-hot doctor wife Sheila (Eva Mendes) — his bewilderment to the situation is one for the ages. It becomes a running gag, however, that after its tenth use, loses its steam. Allen’s Prius gets smacked down a bit — Terry’s first inclination is to equate driving in it to “driving in a little vagina,” and Allen’s choice of “heart-pumping” music makes Terry think he’s “shopping for a training bra.” Both are funny, hell, they’re funny the second time too, but beyond that they, and other jokes that get used once too often, get stale.
Yet, while a great lot of the jokes are recycled, it was still refreshing to see Will Ferrell play a more muted role. Generally speaking, he apes to the camera in every film he is in, trying to be more outlandish — and stupid — than in the previous instant (the Jim Carrey syndrome). As Allen, however, he never raises his voice or changes his monotonous tone (except for later in the movie when his alter-ego “Gator” is revealed) and even handily wins a verbal assault against Terry (involving lions and tunas, of all things!). Along with this freshness is the fact that this change of pace works — Ferrell draws as good of laughs, if not better, from his lack of outward expression as compared with his usual fare.
It was an interesting choice, to say the least, to pair Ferrell with Wahlberg together. It might be one Adam McKay would rethink if he had a chance to go back in time and recast. As it stands, The Other Guys may not be anyone’s best work by far, but it’s still good for a hearty laugh or two.