Movie review: 'The Other Guys' packs more clichés than heat
In the Hollywood comedy system, the people are presented with two separate yet equal cop buddy movies: the winners, who make us laugh; and the losers, who persecute audiences to the fullest extent.
The former of course is symbolized by “48 Hrs.” and “Lethal Weapon,” while the latter can best be described as “The Other Guys.” Or, as I call it, “Blah & Disorder.”
They are a corrupt breed, these wisecracking cops; fleecing citizens of their time and money. Worse, they rob themselves of all semblance of professional pride and dignity. Such traits are distressing to see in any actor, more so when they involve a past Oscar nominee like Mark Wahlberg.
Love the guy; one of my favorite performers and a proverbial American success story. But that success was built on drama, not comedy, which seems to suit him more in small doses, as was the case in the recent “Date Night.” As a leading man, like he is here opposite a long-slumping Will Ferrell (“Land of the Lost,” “Step Brothers”), his deficiencies become all too prevalent.
As the worst of New York’s Finest, the mismatched stars play a couple of screw-ups confined to their desks because they’re too dangerous – to the public and themselves – to be set loose on the streets. So they spend their days doing drudgework, mostly typing up arrest reports for their celebrity colleagues, Danson (Dwayne Johnson) and Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson), aka “The Real Guys,” a couple of toughs who always get their perp, even if it means costing New York City millions in property damage claims.
They will literally drive through walls and leap off rooftops in the grand tradition of indestructible TV and movie cops. But their shtick starts going too far, both for them and director-co-writer Adam McKay (“Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”), who waits much too long to permanently dispense with the heroes and cue their captain (Michael Keaton) to send in the zeroes.
That would be Ferrell’s Alan Gamble, who firmly believes it’s hip to be square, and Wahlberg’s Terry Hoitz, a hot-head with an itchy trigger finger and a deep desire to play bad cop with the bad guys.
Unlike the ill-fated colleagues they’re replacing, Gamble and Hoitz look anything but cool, especially when they’re patrolling the Big Apple in a Prius, or as Hoitz calls it, “a vagina.”
OK, I’ll admit, that line’s funny, especially the way Wahlberg delivers it. But he and Ferrell quickly run out of ammunition, as McKay and co-writer Chris Henchy dust off every bickering buddy-cop trope they can conjure up. That includes a plethora of sex jokes and odd-couple clashes, none of them fresh, few of them funny. And as each gag lands with a thud, you can sense the desperation seeping in, as McKay and Henchy begin repeating themselves – even though the joke was neither funny nor clever the first time. So imagine the pain on the eighth or ninth repetition.
I swear, if I saw Ferrell pull the wooden gun gag or Wahlberg make just one more comment about Eva Mendes (perfect as the wooden trophy wife) being out of Gamble’s league, I was going to end it all.
The only element remotely lamer is the plot about our hapless heroes pursuing Steve Coogan’s money-laundering Wall Street traitor. Topical, yes; compelling, hell no. It was all I could do to stay awake, especially during a cacophonous third act full of shootouts, smashups, explosions and lethal jokes. All of it building toward a setup for a presumptuous sequel. As if anyone would ever want to see another “Other Guys.”
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THE OTHER GUYS (PG-13 for language, sexual situations and cartoon-style violence.) Cast includes Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson and Michael Keaton. Co-written and directed by Adam McKay. 1 star out of 4.