Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Other Guys (2010)

A hilarious, yet imperfect comedy that involves two sidekicks of New York's number one crime-fighting cop duo, and their attempt to gain respect of their own. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play the titular Other Guys, a nebbish "forensic accountant," and a loudmouth, pent up hot-shot demoted for shooting someone famous and beloved (a stupid gag that I won't ruin just in case I'm just being a curmudgeon). The Main Guys (who deserved a better shake than they got in this film) are played by The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, two dudes who definitely know how to play over-the-top action heroes, and they are true to form here in their tragically brief appearance. The plot takes Ferrell and Wahlberg to a jewel heist that was, perhaps, faked to cover up a bigger, more substantive corporate crime. The fact that the film actually has a plot separates it from Mckay's earlier buddy comedies, and it definitely gives the film a life of its own beyond the typical improvised banter and random sight gags; however, it also gives the film a bit of a cap on the humor, as the film cannot derail from logic as severely as Anchorman and Step Brothers repeatedly did. This definitely hinders Wahlberg's character, clearly a riff on "psychos" such as Mel Gibson's Riggs, or pretty much any character who ended up having to be told "He ain't worth it, man" by his partner as he held a gun to a criminal; he runs around the film, screaming about needing to fly like a peacock (in reference to their case) without a smidgen of comedic understanding or timing. Which is a shame, because Ferrell, once again, after Step Brothers, proves he has way more comedic tricks up his sleeve than he likes to let on; his seemingly benign daff hints at his past, which ends up being a priceless slow reveal, and his continual references to his wife, Eva Mendes, as his "plain," "cute, but definitely not hot," "ball and chain." Speaking of Mendes, she's terrific in the film, showing way more chutzpah and comedic range than I believe anyone expected of her (although I liked her in Stuck On You). Damon Wayans, Jr. (I miss his old man on screen) and Rob Riggle play other other guys, an unnecessary, yet mildly amusing equivalent of The Andy's in Hot Fuzz (an infinitely superior film in almost every facet, by the way) who compete with the titular boys to one-up The Rock and Samuel L. While Steve Coogan and Ray Stevenson are also strong in their straight-man roles, the real honorable mention in the supporting cast is Michael Keaton. He turns in, for the first time in years, a thoroughly comic, goofy performance, and the biggest compliment I can give the film is that I had no clue how much I missed this side of Keaton until I saw it delivered in spades here; he is simultaneously subtle and over-the-top in ways that are matched only by Ferrell, who I now suspect may have been influenced by the Beetlejuice star in his work. The action in the film is surprisingly effective, particularly in a two-fisted office shootout set to The White Stripes' "Icky Thump", but still comes shy of the third act extravaganza of the similarly themed Hot Fuzz.

Recommended for fans of over-the-top PG-13 action comedies a la Hot Shots, or Mckay and Ferrell's previous films. For me, this ranks below Anchorman and Step Brothers, but probably on par with Talladega Nights; while it does not have that film's penchant for random insanity, it does have a stronger sense of character and story that would make the film much stronger, had Mark Wahlberg been such a desperate, overeager dud. Dirk Diggler was a fluke, everyone, it's okay, we'll always have his 5 goofy minutes or so in The Departed AND I Heart Huckabees if you can stand the existential jargon.

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