The Other Guys has, arguably, the funniest first thirty minutes of any film this year. Had the rest of the film been as consistently funny, I may have needed oxygen. The problem: the following hour isn’t nearly as funny, or even as clever. The screenplay doesn’t have enough gas, resorting to recycled jokes wrapped around an unnecessarily convoluted white-collar fraud plot. As a send-up of the buddy-cop action/comedy, it’s serviceable, but it’s no Hot Fuzz.
Every police department has the Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson): the two hotshot cops who revel in their victories while backhandedly bashing their co-workers. Then there are the other guys, Allen (Ferrell) and Terry (Wahlberg), the desk jockeys who process paperwork all day. Terry is a former hotshot himself and is itching to get back out on the streets. Allen is perfectly content typing away all day. When the two discover a magnate’s (Coogan) plan to defraud New York through the lottery system, they must spring into action.
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg make for an interesting and often hilarious duo, with the core humor spawning from their verbal exchanges and all-around different world-view. Had the film been them riding around in a cruiser chatting for 100 minutes, it probably would have been funnier than the turns the screenplay, by director Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, takes once the shaky plot takes over in the second act. Rather than continue to have the two play off each other, we get a hit-and miss subplot involving Allen’s marriage to the smoking hot Sheila (Mendes), whom he think is plain and boring. Ringing in as more weird than funny is Allen’s past, involving him being a pimp in college, which causes him to go into prolonged bouts of pimp-talk. It all sounds funnier than it is.
What does work are the scenes involving the guys’ captain (Keaton), who is constantly and unknowingly quoting TLC songs. The action scenes, shaky cam and all, are passable as spoof. The opening sequence is preposterous action done right, as both Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson get to play up their personas. The plot should have been tertiary to the picture, but it keeps getting bogged down when it should be continuing to build momentum. The closing credits, which consist of depressing statistics regarding the U.S.’s current economic situation, almost makes one wonder if they’re actually trying to make a point.
The Other Guys does serve up a lot of laughs, particularly in the first act, but it never fully clicks the way that previous Ferrell/McKay collaborations have. The second half cashes in the hilarity of the first in favor of a spoof-proof plot, and it’s a very strange decision. It’s a shame, because Ferrell and Wahlberg are terrific, as is the supporting cast. The film is certainly worth checking out in its first run for Ferrell devotees, but everyone else can wait for the disc.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 107 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material.
Theatrical Release: August 6, 2010
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Adam McKay & Chris Henchy.
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan