"The Other Guys" Review

I wasn’t terribly popular in high school. Being overweight and in band, I accepted the fact that I’d never score the winning touchdown at the championship game, never date the prettiest cheerleader and never be the BMOC. It wasn’t until I sang in a school play when I was a junior that people began to notice me, know my name and not ridicule me for my size…as much. Taking a chance and going for some glory made my last year and a half of high school a great deal more enjoyable than I ever thought it would be, even if I still didn’t date the cheerleader. The heroes of this week’s movie, “The Other Guys,” spend most of the film on the outside looking in. It isn’t until they take a chance and lay it all on the line that they finally are noticed for more than their failings. It’s a shame the movie won’t be noticed for being more than a mildly amusing.

Det. Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Det. Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are partners on the New York City police force. They are not, however, the stars of the department. Det. Danson (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Det. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) are the ones making all the high profile arrests, garnering all the publicity and attracting all the police groupies. Gamble happily does Danson and Highsmith’s paperwork but Hoitz is looking to sink his teeth into a big case. When Gamble tells Hoitz about high dollar financial manager David Ershon (Steve Coogan) who has violated a minor building code, Hoitz is unimpressed; however, when the duo picks up Ershon, they are jumped by a team of armed gunmen who kidnap the financier and take their guns. Later, in the office of their boss Capt. Gene Mauch (Michael Keaton), the pair are met by the same gunmen who claim to be Ershon’s private security team and defend their actions by saying they thought the cops were kidnappers. Hoitz doesn’t buy their story and Gamble, who is an accountant, looks deeper into Ershon’s books and begins to suspect a multi-billion dollar fraud may be in the works. A lack of evidence and pressure from the district attorney’s office to stop the investigation makes proving the case difficult, but the pair thinks they are on to a major crime and they aren’t giving up.

“The Other Guys” is kind of funny some of the time and, from a story point of view, is mostly a mess. The humor in the film is primarily derived from Will Ferrell’s ability to play his character as a functioning moron who is willing to accept almost any abuse. Derided by his coworkers, including his partner, Ferrell plows ahead with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. His lack of self- and social awareness means he will say and do anything, anywhere at any time. It’s a shame that much of what he says and does is either only mildly amusing or completely unfunny. What works in the film’s favor is that Ferrell and company throw so many lines and situations at the audience that sometimes there’s actually a laugh generated by the machine-gun-like pace of the script and story. However, all this speed makes following the story difficult and the script’s numerous tempo changes (from slapstick to relationship to wordplay comedy) is like riding in a car with someone who doesn’t know how to drive a stick.

Ferrell’s performance is his standard comedy film work. Wahlberg gives his character a hair-trigger temper and an undercurrent of crazed stalker. There’s also a little bit of sexual confusion in the role, as Hoitz compares himself to a peacock and confesses to learning ballet and the harp as a child so he could make fun of the “fruity” kids who did those things. Wouldn’t it have been easier and more “manly” to just beat them up? Eva Mendes as Gamble’s wife is used mostly as a set-up to the running joke of Gamble being irresistible to smoking hot babes. Johnson and Jackson, in brief roles, play the swaggering super cops as reckless and egotistical, which makes the actions that lead to their exit from the film simultaneously understandable and mystifying. All the detectives in the film are shown to be arrogant, violent bullies who look for weakness in their fellow officers, making Gamble and Hoitz prime targets. Having all the characters played in limiting types makes it difficult to really care about anyone in the film. Even the more likable characters are so locked into their narrow behavior it makes them unbelievable. Of course, none of this would have made any difference if more of the humor had worked. Alas, like many Ferrell comedies, the laughs are separated by too many jokes that just don’t deliver enough of the funny.

“The Other Guys” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence, and some drug material. There are some very graphic descriptions of sexual activity but no sex scenes. There are some fist fights and shootings but no gore. The drug material is very limited and quickly forgettable. Foul language is somewhat common.

The very first movie I reviewed for WIMZ.com was Will Ferrell’s “Stranger Than Fiction,” a fantasy/romance that I liked very much. I’ve actually preferred Ferrell’s efforts in serious films over his comedies. While I enjoyed “Step Brothers” and “Blades of Glory,” most of his movies have struck me as somewhat tedious and repetitious. I’m sorry to say, his latest is more of the same.

“The Other Guys” gets three guitars out of five.

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