23 September 2010

And That's Funny, Right?!- THE OTHER GUYS Review

Did you lose your job during the recession? Has your credit rating plummeted? Then you know there has to be comedy in that, right? Right?! This is the pandering central conceit of The Other Guys, from the creative team behind Anchorman. After a blistering action-packed opening starring Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, we're introduced to the titular other guys, played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

Pen-pusher Allen Gamble and disgraced detective Terry Hoitz get their big chance to go up in the world when they stumble upon evidence of a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by a devious CEO. Working around the fact that they're utterly incompetent and have to have their balls busted every other day by their long-suffering boss, they go on a journey of... oh, look, it's just a buddy cop comedy, right?

Let me remind you of a film that limped in and out of UK cinemas earlier this year. It was called Cop Out, and people seemed to hate it. As a big Kevin Smith fan, it disappointed me- I found it to be lacking in his usual earnestness and humour, muddled in the plot department and all in all, it felt way too self-indulgent. I'm baffled by all the great reviews The Other Guys is getting, because the difference between Smith's film and Adam McKay's film is six of one and half a dozen of the other.

If anything, the plot in this is even more muddled than Cop Out. While that one at least had some motivation for our protagonists, this is merely a series of comedy sketches strung together by some vague political implications. It's like the filmmakers are breaking the fourth wall and saying "Will Ferrell is a geeky cop! And that's funny, right?!" Sadly, the answer is mostly no! I like Ferrell, but so much of his ad-libbing here utterly missed the mark for me.

Luckily, he's played against Mark Wahlberg, a natural comedy actor, as anybody who has seen The Happening will testify. His infuriated yelling for Ferrell to shut up is often a lot funnier than whatever tangent Ferrell is off on. They at least have a decent dynamic going, and I'd happily have watched any number of short sketches with them riffing on one another. The plot in this one just doesn't work, and it drags the film out to 107 minutes. Not a long film, but a film that feels really, really long.

It does have more than a few belly-laughs, an area in which Cop Out was definitely lacking, but come on! This one's surely only getting such a good buzz because of the goodwill towards Ferrell and McKay. This is by far the weakest film they've made together- I enjoyed Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers and so my expectations were high. Were they met? Fuck no!

Individual elements of it are great, but I wanted to see most of those elements more than we saw Will Ferrell. Exempt from that are Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, whose extended cameos are the most perfectly pitched comedic roles the film has to offer. Also, Steve Coogan- either he doesn't ad-lib well or they just gave his character really crappy dialogue. But I'd happily have seen more of Michael Keaton or Eva Mendes, dammit!

The Other Guys is a film that almost felt calculated to alienate me as it went along. I laughed a lot in the first half hour, but that's not enough to give the whole film a pass. It's only sporadically funny and sadly more concerned with throwing in Blues Brothers style car chases than being consistent and coherent. Wait until DVD if you're a fan of Ferrell. If you're not, then don't watch Cop Out either, but to those trumpeting this as the second coming, they're both different shades of the same disappointing colour.

The Other Guys is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Other Guys, why not share your comments below? Incidentally, even though I like Step Brothers, I'm going to slap the next person who yells "It's the fuckin' Catalina wine-mixer" in public. Unless we're actually at the Catalina wine-mixer. Which seems unlikely.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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