The Other Guys is the proverbial mixed bag. The movie is never tremendously funny, but it is at the very least an enjoyable action comedy. The crime subplot is extremely convoluted, almost garishly reexplained over and over to little result, but the performances of the two leads carry the film to moderate success overall.
Ferrell plays Allen, a straight laced desk cop. Wahlberg is Terry, the rogue bad ass. Together they form the mismatched NYPD detective team at the heart of our story. Ferrell and Wahlberg have an unmistakeable chemistry that, at times, provides some laughs. Their characters are well developed, engaging, and they have some pretty fun interaction that carries most of the movie.
Unfortunately, their relationship becomes less and less the focus of the film, and the increasingly painful extortion subplot starts to rear its head in a very negative way. As is the problem in most feature films attempting to blur genre lines between a couple of influences, the focus wains between comedy and action. This leads to a severely uneven tone that hampers the movie from ever becoming fantastically memorable. Also preventing this from becoming a really good film is the lack of memorable jokes.
Jokes are recycled at length in the film, to decreasing success. They start as chuckle worthy and resort subsequent deliveries to frustrating. I’m not sure why Adam McKay thinks this is a formula for success. It seems like a waste of time once a joke has been repeated over and over, especially when you have a genuinely funny cast more than capable of elevating a moderate script. But they’re never allowed to.
The movie begins with Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson pursuing some Rasta gang members through the streets of New York City. McKay does a great job creating this team, and they are amazing in their roles. In fact (and I’m not sure if this was the intent), I wanted the movie to focus on Danson and Highsmith. Johnson and Jackson show tremendous chemistry, and unfortunately their roles are nothing more than glorified cameos.
Adam McKay shows plenty of promise directing a big budget action film, unfortunately he just couldn’t assist in writing a more enjoyable one. The best scene isn’t one of the myriad of car chases or other stock action scenes; it’s actually nothing more than a very creative montage that shows Ferrell (Allen) and Mark Wahlberg (Terry) partaking in a night of drinking. It was funny, memorable, and tragically a one of a kind moment in a movie full of misses for every hit.
The extortion subplot isn’t distractingly bad, just maddeningly so. It has to be explained over and over, and that eats up valuable time in a 100 minute movie where there isn’t time to spare. This isn’t a Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann movie. There are too many peripheral characters that McKay seems to want to give time to, and most of them aren’t funny. Damon Wayans Jr. and Rob Riggle are supposed to provide Ferrell and Wahlberg with some inter-office competition. Riggle (whom I happen to enjoy on The Daily Show) proves to be nothing more than a one trick pony whose schtick is wearing thin. Wayans can’t recreate the raw energy set by The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson very early on, and he’s never funny. Steve Coogan has absolutely nothing to work with, and every other villain gets even less. Eva Mendes once again defies logic by being blissfully terrible in a major release. The charming Michael Keaton is the only supporting character (outside of Danson and Highsmith) that really works. Luckily Ferrell and Wahlberg shoulder the load.
Wahlberg is undeniably charming in his manic bad ass role. Ferrell is affiable in his straight laced desk cop part. The two work well together, and it’s purely due to their efforts that the movie doesn’t completely fail. Instead of walking out of the theater with a bad taste in your mouth, you leave with no taste in your mouth, thinking “it could have been better, could have been worse.”
Coasting on the fun chemistry of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, The Other Guys doesn’t fail but it doesn’t quite succeed as much as it could have. The jokes are very hit or miss, the plot is more than occasionally frustrating, and the bulk of the supporting cast hit the wall. Instead of a raucous summer action comedy, we’re given a tepid action film with a few laughs thrown in.
Score: 6.5/10 (Below Average)