Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Other Guys

The Other Guys aims to riff on the classic buddy cop formula. In fact, the real team machinations are the ones going on behind the scenes. It is, after all, the latest from the Will Ferrell-Adam McKay stable, film making pals who have cornered the market in the part-improvised mainstream bromance comedy. Anchorman is arguably still the funniest thing they've done - to the extent that everything else has felt like leftovers. The Other Guys, sadly, does nothing to change that.

It's a peculiar waste of potential. Rather than take newly minted satirical potshots at this most lampooned of genres, it chooses, frustratingly, to instead hang Ferrell's now tired passive-aggressive routine and familiar in-jokes on the cops and robbers framework. What then, does this have to distinguish itself from efforts like Step Brothers and Anchorman? In truth, zip. Guys largely fires blanks, aside from a moderately engaging opening that features two characters who unfortunately don't survive beyond the first act.

They are embodied with zeal by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, as, respectively, Highsmith and Danson. Passing off millions of dollars worth of damage in the opening credits sequence, which sees them collaring criminals by ploughing a car into a bus, as small fry compared to the service they've provided New York, these are the guys heralded as heroes back in the precinct. Then we're introduced to the eponymous 'other guys': mild desk jockey Allen Gamble (Ferrell, who may be channelling a quieter character but is exactly the same in every other aspect) and louder, brasher Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), who hates the restrictive nature of office work, imposed as a punishment for having plugged baseball star Derek Jeter in the line of duty (that joke fails to cross the pond successfully).

Both Gamble and Hoitz are then forced to step up the plate when their heroes unexpectedly depart the film in a bizarre scene that strives for a kind of surreal wit that's way above the material. Taking up their investigation, both Ferrell's meek accountant and Wahlberg's twitchy man of action trace leads to shady British businessman David Ershon (Steve Coogan). This is where the film starts to unravel quicker than the proverbial string at the metaphorical cat show. The indications are strong that Ferrell and Wahlberg will make a good team and energise the film after its subversive opening. But after the initial sheen has worn off (Ferrell, initially, represses his emotions; Wahlberg channels his Departed character and shouts - a lot), a niggling feeling starts to settle that all of this is far too complacent for its own good.

And, annoyingly, those doubts are well founded, with a roll call of jokes either cribbed from recent successful comedies, or new ones simply repeated ad nauseum. Hence Ferrell gets to finally unleash his manic energy and scream in Coogan's face in a variation on the good cop, bad cop; while an initially promising pairing between Ferrell and impossibly smoking Eva Mendes as his wife eventually outstays its welcome. Wahlberg's deadpan bemusement at unfolding events simply isn't enough to sustain the frequent periods of slack, smug familiarity, especially when supporting players like Coogan and Michael Keaton (as the police captain who also works at Bed, Bath and Beyond) are utterly neglected.

So what happened? Is it a product of poor editing? Were the best bits cut out, to form a separate DVD a la The Legend of Ron Burgundy? The bizarrely out of place presence of political statistics over the end credits would certainly seem to indicate yes. Frankly guys, you may be slapping each other on the back once the cameras have stopped rolling...but don't expect us to unconditionally give out our love from the cinema.


  1. Eh, I liked the movie. Not all jokes hit the mark, not all of it was funny, but I never for one minute thought it would be hilarious the entire time.
    I don't think there's a movie ever made that was. I enjoyed it far more than Anchorman, but then..I generally enjoy cat food commercials more than Anchorman.

  2. Yeah, I forgot to flag up the odd good joke in The Other Guys (namely how loud explosions are in 'real' life - that made me laugh as a piece of brilliantly observed humour) but what irked me is that I expected so much more given the pedigree. It was the sense of smug complacency that rankled, the sense that we're expected to have a good time by default just because Will Ferrell's in it (although, as you've mentioned, Anchorman also clearly divides opinion!) As for a consistently funny film...Airplane or Life of Brian spring to mind but then humour is always the most difficult thing to critique!