By now, audiences ought to know what to expect from an Adam McKay/Will Ferrell collaboration. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers all share the same style of awkward, absurd humor that has become synonymous with Ferrell, and The Other Guys is the same deal. But with guns.
Will Ferrell plays accountant turned NYPD desk cop Allen Gamble, a super nerd who prefers paperwork to hitting the streets. So of course he’s partnered with Detective Terry Hoitz (Mark Walhberg, I Heart Huckabees), who was on his way to supercop status before a huge mistake on his part got him permanently attached to a desk, where is completely miserable. And when resident supercop team Danson and Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel Jackson) become unavailable, Hoitz manages to get Gamble to man up and do some real police work. Hilarity ensues.
The Other Guys is a pretty funny movie, though due to the extreme level of comedy in Anchorman, expectations are forever high on McKay/Ferrell team ups. Like their other films, The Other Guys will probably get funnier on repeat viewings, but on the initial viewing it wasn’t the side splitting, knee-slapping, gut-busting comedy I was hoping for. And this would have been fine if the comedy was being sacrificed a little for some top notch action, but as it is, The Other Guys is an action movie obviously made by a comedy director. Adam McKay knows how to film a comedy scene and Will Ferrell to their maximum potential, but he really doesn’t have a firm grasp of how to stage interesting or fun action scenes. The opening action scene is loaded with great ideas, but so much of the execution seems just a little off.
Action comedies are ridiculously tough to pull off. Just ask Kevin Smith, who was recently skewered for making the awful buddy cop homage comedy Cop Out. Just because you love action movies from the 1980’s and 1990’s doesn’t mean you are going to be able to crank out a flick as good as Beverly Hills Cop or Hot Fuzz. Comedy timing and action timing are two different beasts, and it is tough trying to nail both in the same movie. But where Cop Out failed on both fronts, The Other Guys at least has the benefits of seriously skilled comedians doing their thing, delivering some big laughs and a whole lot of little ones.
The most surprising aspect of The Other Guys is how it also serves as a condemnation of our corporate culture. The villains of the plot include a corporation deemed “too big to die” and a charlatan businessman (Steve Coogan, Tropic Thunder) who keeps a framed photograph of Bernie Madoff in his office. And during the closing credits, the audience is treated to a delightful presentation as to the nature of Ponzi Schemes and how disproportionate the wages of workers are from those of the CEOs. It looks like McKay and Ferrell wanted to send audiences out the door with some anger towards the corporate fat cats living large in this down economy. Unfortunately, the audience I saw the movie with had split once they realized they were getting an anti-corporate America slide show instead of hilarious outtakes. I guess no one wants to see a comedy that will also tick them off.
But even if you don’t want these messages, than you’ll still find The Other Guys an enjoyable experience. The supporting cast is great, especially Michael Keaton, who gets several moments to shine as an overbearing and overworked police captain, and Eva Mendes gets to show off her comedic chops (as well as other things). And keep an ear out for the tune “Pimps Don’t Cry,” composed and recorded by Jon Brion and featured Mendes along with the one and only Cee-Lo Green. There’s enough to keep The Other Guys fun and interesting, despite all its flaws.