Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Other Guys

Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay continue their fruitful partnership of serviceable and occasionally brilliant but often flawed comedies with The Other Guys, a send up of buddy cop movies (which are themselves already pretty silly in nature) with an odd sense of humor and an even odder political stance against the seedy nature of big money in America. The bad guys in the story are basically using fraud to cover up losses, and the entire end credits of the film feature animated information about things like how Ponzi schemes work and the average salaries of CEOs in comparison to regular workers over time. This is probably the wrong movie to throw an issue like this into, though I appreciate the effort.

The movie starts out bombastically with a ridiculous car chase through New York City as Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson attempt to stop some drug dealers. It's one of the most wonderfully absurd action scenes played for laughs I've seen, and it's a great start for the movie. I would watch a whole film about Johnson and Jackson as these superhero cop characters. But it's not about them, it's about the other guys, played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Ferrell plays a number cruncher and paperwork doer who'd rather stay in the office than chase bad guys, and Wahlberg was a promising young cop who had his career derailed after he shot a famous athlete. They're mostly the subject of ridicule, but they see an opportunity to make a big case after they arrest a businessman played by Steve Coogan and he is then kidnapped by armed thugs. People with money don't like Ferrell and Wahlberg sniffing around their affairs, and they are harassed at every turn by their fellow cops and other things working against them.

The structure of the story could have pretty much just been a regular buddy cop movie, but it's the specific weirdness of the situations and dialogue that make it a Will Ferrell comedy. The film just comes up with a ton of running gags and lets them ride, and some of them end up being pretty funny. Some of the better ones include all the horrible things that happen to the interior of Ferrell's Prius, his dark past, and Wahlberg's habit of studying fine arts so he can make fun of people who enjoy them. Some bits are weirder; Ferrell's innate attraction to beautiful women is cute but offset by what's basically an emotionally abusive marriage that's played for laughs.

Ferrell's mix of low key and very loud methods of being funny are in full effect and enjoyable as usual, and while I would say Wahlberg definitely isn't a natural comic actor (or a natural actor at all, really), his hit rate on one liners is generally pretty decent. Michael Keaton is great as the police captain, and his role is another I'd love to see revisited in a Rock/Jackson prequel. The movie is overstuffed to the point of bursting with recognizable comedic talent, and most of the cameos usually have at least one decent joke attached instead of just being their for their own sake. Ice-T's narration in particular is memorable. Not every joke is a success and I would have preferred a less self-serious plot, but it was a pretty fun movie.

No comments: