- Rated R
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All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
n paper, Adam McKay’s buddy cop comedy, “The Other Guys,” sounds like a real winner. McKay has a pretty good track record when it comes to working with friend and writing partner Will Ferrell (“Anchorman,” “Step Brothers”), and the idea of pairing him up with a more natural leading man like Mark Wahlberg was ripe with potential. But just like last week’s “Dinner for Schmucks,” two great performers don’t always make a great movie, and although “The Other Guys” is considerably funnier, it never regains the energy of its first act due to a limp story and some terrible pacing.
The NYPD is made up of all kinds of police officers. There are supercops like Highsmith and Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) that indulge in the type of over-the-top heroics that you only see in the movies, and then there are the other guys, like Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg), a pair of paper-pushing office drones who spend their days writing up reports for the headline-grabbing arrests made by their fellow officers. While Allen is perfectly happy behind the safety of an office desk, Hoitz is desperately trying to earn back the respect of his peers after accidentally shooting a hometown hero. So when Highsmith and Jackson are put out of commission in an incident that’s simply too funny to spoil , Terry tries to convince Allen that it’s their time to shine. But Allen is more interested in menial cases like one involving a property permit violation by investment banker David Ershon (Steve Coogan), completely unaware that he’s stumbled onto a multi-billion dollar cover-up that Bernie Madoff would be proud of.
Like most Adam McKay/Will Ferrell movies, the humor tends to be a little off-kilter at times (along with Ice-T serving as the narrator of the film, there’s a subplot involving Allen’s pimp alter-ego, Gator), but more often than not, it’s the constant squabbling between Ferrell and Wahlberg that scores most of the laughs. And the two play off one another brilliantly, like in a scene early in the film where Allen flips Terry’s poorly thought out metaphor about lions and tuna into a lengthy monologue that might not be as funny if Ferrell didn’t sell it so well. There are also some great running gags about hot women being attracted to Ferrell’s mild-mannered nerd (he's married to Eva Mendes, and yet constantly cites her plainness) and Michael Keaton’s police captain (who holds down a second job at Bed, Bath and Beyond) referencing TLC songs in everyday conversation.
It’s quirky little details like these that make their comedies so unique, but unfortunately, a lot of the film’s funnier moments happen in the first act. After that, the movie becomes tied down by its convoluted plot, and it begins to drag. McKay and co-writer Chris Henchy may have thought it was funny to center the story around a white-collar crime, but it’s a joke that never really takes off, despite the contrasting action that inevitably follows. And though they do have some fun with genre conventions (the typical station dustup between rival officers is staged as a whisper-quiet tussle during a funeral), the script fails to fully exploit the buddy cop formula. Ferrell and Wahlberg still make a great comedic team, and you won’t laugh harder all year than during the first 30 minutes, but "The Other Guys" should have been Hollywood's answer to "Hot Fuzz," and it falls short.
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Following in line with their absurdist brand of humor, the Blu-ray release of the new Adam McKay/Will Ferrell comedy, “The Other Guys,” comes loaded with strange extras ranging from a mom-umentary (a commentary track featuring the mothers of McKay, Ferrell and writer Chris Henchy) to a series of on-set interviews filmed entirely as extreme close-ups. There’s also more traditional fare like deleted and extended scenes, a cast featurette (“Wasn’t That?), a stunt featurette (“Crash and Burn”), and additional footage including alternate takes and raw dailies from Michael Keaton’s Bed, Bath and Beyond speech. It's a little uneven, but there’s still some good stuff here.