Review: Ferrell/Wahlberg's The Other Guys is Furiously Funny
by Jeremy Kirk
August 10, 2010
The Other Guys starts with an explosive car chase. Two New York hero cops are chasing bad guys. What did they do? It doesn't matter. Just know the cops involved are the cream of the crop. Dwayne Johnson is on the roof of the car being driven by the bad guys. Samuel Jackson is driving a Chevelle closely behind. Bullets are flying. The banter is quick. When the explosions occur, they are wild and slick and right out of the best scenes Michael Bay has to offer. This is where the action peaks in The Other Guys, but, just as the film isn't about Johnson and Jackson's characters, it's also not about the explosions and gun fights. The Other Guys is about comedy, and, when it starts, regardless of the surrounding action, it is intensive enough on its own.
Shortly after the opening scene, an event, one best left unspoiled, takes our hero cops out of action for good. The city needs a new pair of heroes, and the captain, played by Michael Keaton, looks to the other men in his department to step up. Enter Detectives Gamble and Hoitz, played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, respectively. They are partners. They don't get along. They work the desk and fill out the paperwork the aforementioned hero cops don't want to and don't have to fill out. Gamble is fine with this, but Hoitz, who has recently been dropped to a desk job after a shooting gone wrong (enter genius cameo here), wants to get back into the field. After forcing Gamble into the fieldwork side of being a detective (at gunpoint, no less), the two begin an investigation that could lead them to hero-level success or absolute failure. Let's just say the latter, in any case, is much funnier.
Adam McKay, who had a hand in making Ferrell the king of current cinematic comedy with Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers, hits the comedy in The Other Guys with the same ferocity we've become accustomed to. The jokes, whether they're from Ferrell or Wahlberg, fly often and hard. Whether it's jokes about the Prius Gamble drives or the wooden gun the captain forces him to carry or about Hoitz screaming out how he's a peacock who just wants to fly out of his office cage or flashbacks to Gamble's more illicit days in college, the comedy never lets up and it rarely misfires.
When you're dealing with a comedy, one as broad as anything Will Ferrell has ever done, it's best to go with the law of averages and dish it out as frequently as possible. That way, when one doesn't work, you've already got the next one lined up in the chamber to fire out before the audience even realizes they aren't laughing at the first one. The problem when a comedy hits with the percentile of something like The Other Guys is you miss a lot from laughing at a previous joke. It's a good problem to have, and it's definitely one found here.
What should be noted about The Other Guys, one of the only downsides to the film's comedy, really, is in some of the structuring. A psycho ex-girlfriend subplot gets dropped almost as quickly as it begins. The idea of Hoitz's background on his computer is ever-changing is only presented once or twice. Even Keaton's Captain Mauch and the idea that he is always quoting TLC songs never culminates or pays off. It just comes up here and there and moves on. In the course of adapting from screenplay to film, it almost feels like some subplots are never allowed to develop as much as they probably should have. These are jokes on a completely subsidiary level, nothing that has to be at the forefront of the film, so this issue is quite inconsequential. However, it is hard to pass on the idea that more could have been done with some of what they had.
The same goes for what passes as the film's main plot, that of Gamble and Hoitz investigating a ponzi scheme run by Steve Coogan's smarmy businessman and the heavily armed mercs chasing after him led by Ray Stevenson. It's a catalyst for the action and the film as a whole, really, but it never feels like it's firing on nearly as many cylinders as the comedy. When the main course of your film is only serving as window-dressing for the comedy, you better make sure that comedy never falters. Luckily, McKay and crew never allow that to happen.
What is anything but inconsequential is the chemistry between Wahlberg and Ferrell. Without it, the film, whether it is going for the homage to the buddy cop films of the '80s and '90s or something broader, simply wouldn't work. The two are brilliant together just as much as they are by themselves. The banter between them, though never quite as witty as anything Shane Black has included in the buddy cop films he has written, pings back and forth with hilarious speed and accuracy.
Wahlberg, who seems to have carried his anger and cynicism over from his Sgt. Dignam role in The Departed, plays it completely straight save for a few dance moves he throws in here and there. This type of straight-faced delivery is perfect when you're allowed to laugh at it, and Wahlberg never feels out of his element. The same can't be said for Ferrell who doesn't cross to the action as well as his partner crosses to the comedy. Like I said, though, the film isn't really about the action, so you forgive Ferrell's inability to be seen as an action star when he's wearing gold teeth and talking about “his bitches.”
The Other Guys is furiously funny, a comedy that plows through its jokes like an out of control freight train with a pair of stars that come off like Abbott and Costello with 9MMs. McKay, Ferrell, and Wahlberg all have a hand in dominating the comedy here. When you have laughs flying this hard and fast, who needs bullets?
Jeremy's Rating: 8 out of 10