By Don Simpson | August 6, 2010
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Chris Henchy, Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Keaton, Ray Stevenson, Steve Coogan, Anne Heche, Rob Riggle, Ice-T (narrator)
The unexplainable narration of Ice-T introduces us to the rock star coppers Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson) as they pull off a series of ridiculously exaggerated and gratuitous stunts leaving a wake of turmoil and destruction everywhere they go. Who the heck cares if the dynamic duo just cost the city’s taxpayers millions of dollars in damages during small time bust? Highsmith and Dawson garner the unwavering love and support of Manhattanites, local news media and tabloids because they look awesomely cool while doing their job.
As we know from this film’s trailers, The Other Guys is not about these guys. It’s about two other guys. Therefore it is not long before Highsmith and Danson meet their maker and another pair of NYPD Blue officers from Captain Mauch’s (Michael Keaton) station full of hapless detectives — who all appear to be relegated to the thankless and emasculating task of desk duty — are needed to step into their glorified shoes.
Detective Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) is a former forensic accounting officer who enjoys the indoor life of a paper-pusher; Allen’s peacock of a partner, Detective Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), has an itchy trigger finger which already earned him the shameful nickname of “The Yankee Clipper,” now all Terry wants to do is hit the streets again in order to redeem his ever-shrinking machismo pride. This wouldn’t be a Hollywood comedy if the oddball pair didn’t eventually step up in order to change their lives for the better, so Allen and Terry plunge headfirst into the world of corporate corruption. Only they can save Manhattan from a bevy of evil Capitalist pigs.
If only the resulting film was quite that interesting or coherent. Writer-director Adam McKay seems to have no clue as to what kind of movie The Other Guys should be. Is it an over-the-top spoof film? A semi-authentic buddy-cop action movie? A throwback to 70s exploitation cinema? An absurdly nonsensical sketch comedy? A “smart” comedy with a strong political agenda? I restlessly sat through the painful and tedious 107 minutes of The Other Guys and I really have no idea what I saw. Even a steady diet of beer could not save this celluloid debacle from its destiny to be a humorless failure.
I typically find Will Ferrell to be very amusing (albeit fairly limited in his comedic range). Unfortunately, The Other Guys is unable to take advantage of any of Ferrell’s strengths; most of his goofball shenanigans fall flat to the response of nary a giggle from the audience. Let’s just say that Ferrell’s performance is as wooden as the gun in his holster. I hate to point fingers, but Ferrell’s scene partner appears to be at least partly to blame. Obviously unsure of how to play Terry (serious? mean? silly? over-the-top?), Wahlberg is horribly inconsistent and embarrassingly unfunny…not to mention terribly miscast.
The pathetic excuse for a script doesn’t help Ferrell or Wahlberg either. (Did anyone test the jokes before commencing production? And why didn’t anyone on set or in the editing room have the chutzpah to put this film out of its misery?) The jokes and gags are so bad that its difficult not to suspect that McKay purposefully intended to take the “so bad its funny“ route ala Neil Hamburger. Too bad its not funny at all.
As for the sorry attempt at constructing a political agenda, we have to rely on the highly politicized end credits (to the score of Rage Against the Machine’s clever cover of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm”) which offer a relentless onslaught of statistics ranging from the increasing disparity of wealth in the U.S. to corporate theft (Ponzi schemes) and corporate welfare (tax loopholes and bail-outs). Not only does he have nothing new or interesting to offer in terms of the stats, but McKay chooses to wait until the audience has already left the building before he reveals any thought or purpose behind his cinematic morals and motives. This all seems a bit lazy and half-assed to me — could McKay really not find any way to work these politics into the script? Or did he just not try?