REVIEW: ‘The Other Guys’

Grade: D+

There is a moment in Martin Scorcese’s Best Picture winning 2006 film The Departed where Mark Wahlberg’s Sergeant Dignam is enraged over the placement of cameras in a sting operation. His outspoken anger is responded to by a technician who queries “who the fuck are you?” to which Dignam eloquently retorts: “I’m the guy who does his job, you must be the other guy.” Four years after the release of that film Wahlberg stars in another film that was apparently inspired by that famous comeback line as Wahlberg tries to be a comedic actor, but turns into the “other guy” who doesn’t do his job, which was to make the audience laugh.

The Other Guys is another tired installment to the seemingly endless series of mainstream comedy films that dumb down its characters to the point of exhaustion. Non-existent plot structures are expected with this type of goofball comedy, but this time it was much more than the plot that was off, the style was askew as well. It was as if the actors, director, and writers were on completely different pages (curious because the director is one of the writers) as the frequent moments of improvisation don’t mesh with the overall pace of the film. The movie is kind of a spoof, kind of a slapstick comedy, and kind of awful.

The film opens on a high-speed chase that aims to satirize the greatest action movie clichés featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson as a pair of death defying detectives in the midst of a high-speed chase. From the opening sequence the film gives us the sense that it is going to be a complete buddy cop spoof along the lines of Ferrell and McKay’s previous efforts. However, moments later the narrative attempts to form a legitimate plot that makes the comic bits seem like more of a distraction than the film’s intention.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play Allen Gamble and Tony Hoitz, two paper-pushing detectives from the NYPD who often remain behind to file reports while their more esteemed colleagues do the type of police work we’re accustomed to seeing in movies and on television. When tragedy befalls the two hot shot cops of the precinct, the position is open for a new set of heroes. Despite much condescension from their fellow officers and their Captain, played by Michael Keaton, Gamble and Hoitz attempt to foil the plot of a wealthy corporate scumbag, played by Steve Coogan.

Ferrell does his usual shtick where he spouts words that seem too large for his vocabulary in a slow and staccato fashion. Wahlberg seemed to be setting out to prove his impersonators’ exaggerations are correct by shouting most of his lines in an abruptly ending crescendo (see Andy Samberg on “Saturday Night Live”). The usual hilarious Steve Coogan is mostly wasted as he essentially is made to play a villain that is a straight character, constantly over-stepped by Ferrell and Wahlberg, and other members of the cast made for unnecessary filler such as the police duo of Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans, Jr.

One of the only funny sub-plots featured Eva Mendes as Will Ferrell’s incredibly attractive wife who he constantly belittles in front of others. It’s a smart satire on the recent Hollywood convention of schlubby loser protagonists somehow landing amazingly beautiful girlfriends by the film’s conclusion. Mendes expertly played up her attractiveness while Ferrell constantly shut her down.

The main problem with the film was that it couldn’t decide exactly what type of comedy it wanted to be. It’s theme was actually relevant and believable in its presentation of corporate greed and dishonesty. However, instead of being a character driven comedy the film became an all-out force, which instantly invalidated the underlying message that it had. There were many moments when the filmmakers opted for the totally absurd when the realistic choice would have been much funnier. For instance a scene in an Irish Pub features Ferrell joining into a men’s chorus singing an Irish rebel song with lyrics about pop culture instead of actual Irish rebel song lyrics. The joke aimed itself at the Lady Gaga-listening audience instead of the NPR-listening audience and was significantly less funny as a result.

The whole idea of the movie missing the point is completely proved by the baffling closing credit sequence. After the film’s goofball conclusion the viewer is treated to five minutes of graphics and statistics of recent cases of corporate greed while “Pimps Don’t Cry” from the film’s soundtrack is playing. It’s a disturbing dichotomy and will leave you wondering – what the hell did you just see?

Bottom Line: The Other Guys can’t decide what type of movie that it wants to be and while it figures itself out, it forgets to be funny.

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  • Agreed. This jokes in this film weren’t terribly funny, I had no idea what was going on in this movie, and it just felt kind of pointless. This may be one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year. How do critics like it?

  • Gator

    Your stupid. Maybe the movie calls for less of a candid sense of humor. Try loosening up. Otherwise you might want to just stick to watching movies like Doubt.

  • @Gator – I’ll stick to comedies that don’t dumb things down for me, thank you. Give me Woody Allen, Charlie Chaplin, Lisa Cholodenko, or Mel Brooks any day over Will Ferrell.

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