“The Other Guys” is what one might call a stupid movie for smart people. A common trait among movies like these is that all of the main characters are fundamentally dim-witted in their own unique ways, but the characters themselves are delightfully unaware of their own lunacy. This appears to be a specialty of writer/director Adam McKay, who is responsible for two outrageously hilarious Will Ferrell vehicles (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”) and one that is not so much (“Step Brothers,” ahem!).
I’ll be right upfront. “The Other Guys” was very funny. In small doses. I can name at least one moment that almost had me on the verge of crying from laughing so hard (for the sake of not spoiling the funny, I won’t go into detail). I chuckled more than a few times as well. Other times I sat looking at the screen stone-faced while the rest of my friends continued laughing uproariously. In terms of laughs per minute, the film is about as consistent as a gravel road.
The film’s unlikely duo is composed of a perpetually perky workaholic named Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and former police officer Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) who so wishes to return to his life of bad-assery. These two both work for the NYPD, but are an afterthought compared to the likes of two hardcore cops (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). You already know these types. They are the ones who are qualified to take down criminals at all costs, make smart-alec witticisms around every corner, cause millions of dollars of damage to their own city and, most impossibly, get awarded with unlimited hot-dogs by the end of the day.
This story is from the point of view of the other guys (see what I did there?). I’m talking about the underappreciated guys that work 24/7 at the station under the most monotonous conditions. However, when the opportunity comes for Allen and Terry to have their names to be heard, they take it for all its worth. Their goal: to undermine the exploits of a mysterious capitalist by the name of David Ershon (Steve Coogan) and simultaneously 1-up the two tool-bag wannabe badass cops (Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr.). Chaos ensues.
I hate to say it, but for the first half of the film, the laughs ranging from medium-to-large more than make up for the story, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, the midpoint is the moment at which the film starts to lose steam quickly. There simply are not enough interesting scenarios for the characters to explore, not as much clever material as in the first half and not enough noteworthy new characters (I mean, what was the point of even including Eva Mendes other than just to stand there and be attractive). As it turns out, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s onscreen chemistry only goes too far before it becomes nearly archaic.
That may be the whole problem in and of itself. The humor isn’t special enough to be memorable. Don’t get me wrong; a good majority of the time the movie IS funny. But with a plot that really isn’t worth a damn, there was not a clear moment at which I could connect with the characters or the sense of humor in the kind of way I could in other Will Ferrell/Adam McKay collaborations. As random, ridiculous and reprehensible as these movies have a tendency to be, there must be a motive behind these traits to make them work. For example, “Anchorman,” with its many interesting but all riotous characters and its relentless quotability, has since attained classic status. I can’t ever see this movie achieving that level of greatness.
“The Other Guys” had me for much longer than I expected. How many buddy-cop action comedies actually pull of their intention these days? Not too many. This one brought some light and refreshing satire to the table, but forgot to provide a solid narrative to indulge in. We’ve seen this kind of stuff done, and more importantly, done better (let me take this moment to ask you to watch “Hot Fuzz” if you haven’t already. It’s an absolute masterpiece). Personally, I think I might have enjoyed “Cop Out” a little more. Let the controversy begin.
Note: As random as these movies are, this will be the ONLY movie you’ll EVER see including a still image of Will Ferrell biting the arm of a Catholic priest. That is all.