It would be easy to say The Other Guys is the funniest ‘buddy cop’ movie of the past several years. Or that it’s the most consistently entertaining action/comedy since Hot Fuzz. Or that it’s easily the best Will Ferrell movie since Anchorman. Or that even if Kevin Smith’s Cop Out was remade as a comedy the result still wouldn’t be anywhere near as as hilarious as The Other Guys.
All of that’s true, but you won’t catch me saying it here because the hyperbole (and cheap digs at Smith) can’t hide the fact that the movie also has a glaring problem with plot and an overly long running time. But then again, those problems can’t hide the fact that The Other Guys will have you smiling and laughing aloud from beginning to end either.
Detectives Danson and Highsmith are heroes in blue. They catch every criminal, they break every rule, and both their co-workers and the public view them as NYPD super-cops. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are not Detectives Danson and Highsmith.
Gamble (Ferrell) and Hoitz (Wahlberg) are background cops, the ones left sitting at their desk when Danson and Highsmith are off saving the citizens of NYC, but when the super-cops take a long walk off a short rooftop the “other guys” have the chance to step into the spotlight. Gamble’s investigation into a scaffolding violation points the duo towards a well-known investor (Steve Coogan) and a series of angry clients that he’s been fleecing. Billions of dollars are at stake, a gun-wielding Australian is shooting up the streets, and to make things worse the stress of it all is making Gamble’s inner pimp (named Gator of course) return with a vengeance…
The Other Guys is Adam McKay’s fourth feature collaboration with Ferrell, and while its ranking among Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers will vary from viewer to viewer there’s no question that the duo remains one of the best comedic relationships in recent Hollywood history. (For the record, I’d place it second in their combined resume.) McKay, who also co-wrote the film, does a fantastic job milking every scene for laughs like they were ‘La vache qui rit’ Babybels. (I swear that made sense when I typed it.) The humor isn’t story based but instead comes from all corners… jokes, running gags, and brief detours into insanity fly fast and loose. We get some fun at the expense of action movie tropes during car chases and shootouts, a priceless re-definition of the term ‘soup kitchen’ involving homeless folks having an orgy in a Toyota Prius, a flashback to Gamble’s college years with Ferrell intermingling with much younger co-eds, and if you thought laughs associated with TLC died in Honduras eight years ago guess again my friends.
One of the biggest obstacles in creating a good buddy-anything movie is finding a pair of actors with chemistry capable of playing off each others strengths to the benefit of the film as a whole. Ferrell and Wahlberg succeed pretty well here. Fans of Ferrell’s particular style of goofiness and comedic charm will be reminded why they find him so damn funny, and newcomers to the Ferrell fold (located right below his perineum) may find themselves adding his back catalog into their Netflix queue. And Wahlberg has already teased his comedic chops in I Heart Huckabees, Date Night, and The Happening, but this flick confirms it. His funniest bits are more passive compared to Ferrell’s flat-out zaniness, but he still garners big laughs. The scene where he’s first introduced to his partner’s bombshell wife (Mendes) is five straight minutes of his perfect reactions and delivery.
The supporting cast is just as successful at extracting laughs from your gullet and add to the non-stop barrage of chuckles. Coogan is joined by Eva Mendes, Rob Huebel, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr., Dwayne Johnson, Samuel Jackson, and Michael Keaton. Even Ice-T gets to be a funny man via some sharply written narration. They’re all on top of their game here, but Keaton in particular shows that he still has the brilliant comedic timing that first made him a star. There’s no excuse for his absence from the big screen.
As consistent as the laughs are here the movie feels every minute of its two-hour running time. It’s rarely less than entertaining, but around the ninety minute mark you realize there’s no finale in sight and the temptation of your watch grows stronger. I imagine there are enough extended and alternate takes to assemble a complete second movie so the editing process was probably a nightmare of miniature Sophie’s Choices… cutting one variation of a scene over several others, again and again. But McKay should have probably cut a little bit more and saved the rest for the eventual two-disc DVD and Blu-ray.
That excessive running time may actually be intended to distract you from the plot problems, but if so the plan backfires as you’re forced to actually consider its weaknesses between the jokes and tangential bits of comedic bliss. The more laughs the more likely you may be to forgive the plot that wavers between lightweight simplicity, needless complexity, and an ill-fitting rant against capitalism gone awry. (The end credits even look like a deleted Powerpoint presentation from a Michael Moore film.) The plot never manages to be interesting and it’s an interruption at best… you’re only willing to sit through explanations of the evil investor’s ponzi scheme because you know you’re less than a minute away from a baritone voice bellowing out of Ferrell that “Gator’s bitches better be using jimmies!”
But, and don’t quote me on this, plot be damned!
The Other Guys, as they say over at Feldman’s Clown Supplies & Precious Metals, is comedic gold. It’s the kind of comedy with something for everyone, and even if you don’t spend the entire movie with a smile on your face you’re almost guaranteed to find some laughs and giggles throughout. Every member of the cast, big and small, gets a chance to make you spit up your beverage of choice. The movie is a constant stream of funny being unloaded into your face, sometimes by more than one shooter at a time. So make time for The Other Guys this weekend. This summer is long overdue for a great night at the movies… even if it does leave your face sticky with fun.
The Upside: Very, very funny; Ferrell and Wahlberg have good chemistry; none of the supporting players are wasted; gags come in variety of styles from verbal to visual
The Downside: Feels 15–20 minutes too long; central storyline actually drags down the comedy; enemy threat not well defined
On the Side: At no point in its production history was The Other Guys ever referred to as A Couple of Dicks.