Rated PG-13, 3.5 stars
The Other Guys isn't as laugh out loud funny as I expected from ads for the latest collaboration between Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, Anchorman). It's amusing throughout and there are a number of major laughs, but the tone is different than I expected. The film is a mismatched-cop buddy comedy, but it's not a satire of the genre – it simply is a mismatched-cop buddy comedy. Didn't expect that.
The set-up: Detective Allen Gamble (Ferrell) is a fussy forensic-accountant who loves his job and has no interest in working the mean streets. Detective Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) is a tough guy trying to rebuild his career after an outrageous, demoralizing incident that you should learn about in the film, not here. The two become reluctant partners, squabble, are the object of derision by other officers, deal with great danger, and so on. You know the drill.
Here's the surprising part. I liked these characters. I liked watching an old-fashioned mismatched-cop buddy movie. I liked that the clunky, overwritten plot was taken seriously. Sure, the mechanics of the case overtook the film towards the end. Sure, I wish the movie had more big jokes, but I enjoyed myself.
Hell, I enjoyed Will Ferrell, and I've been tired of him for a while. This time his character is more restrained.I mean, by Will Ferrell standards. I mean, at no point do you see his bare ass or fuzzy belly. Grading on a Ferrell curve, that's pretty good. And his character, ridiculous though he may be, comes off like a human being and not just a cartoon.
Mark Wahlberg plays off his The Departed persona to good effect, although I worry that if he keeps furrowing his brow like that, he's going to end up with some scary-ass wrinkles when he gets older. Incidentally, I saw Wahlberg on Letterman last night and he mentioned that he's 39 years old. Can you believe that Marky Mark – that little punk – is 39 years old?
I'm going to be careful as regards the other cast members – don't want to ruin any funny surprises. Suffice to say that Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson play a pair of super cops, Michael Keaton is the beleaguered Captain and Steve Coogan plays a slimeball. I'm not going to reveal what role Eva Mendes plays, although every other reviewer in the country appears to have done so, but she is very effective in her part.
What else to tell you? You'll enjoy one recurring gag more if you're familiar with The Little River Band's body of work. Also, co-writer and director McKay plays a character called Dirty Mike, which was the nickname for an old pal of mine who now resides in New Orleans.
The bottom line is that The Other Guys isn't "the funniest comedy of the summer" as the ads allege, but it's an entertaining diversion. Especially during a summer season so generally crummy that you have to either grade movies on a curve or just throw your hands up and walk away. That's not a bad idea, either, but if you want to see a mismatched-cop buddy comedy in a theater, you could do a lot worse that this.