I admit it: this goofy, screwball, popcorn movie made me laugh out loud more than any anything else I’ve seen this summer. Will Ferrell and his gang (like writer/director Adam McKay) are hit or miss for me; This time they slug it way out of the park.
"The Other Guys" is equal parts cop-buddy-picture-spoof and SNL-style star vehicle. It starts off with Danson and Highsmith, the ultimate large-and-in-charge, superstar police detectives, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Jonson and that paragon of badassery and inveterate self-satirist, Samuel L. Jackson. Danson and Highsmith specialize, of course, in driving at impossible speeds, through buildings when available, converting mundane city features into roaring plumes of orange flame, and shooting up as many perps as they can. Sure they’re unnecessarily messy, but they know how to work a crowd like rock stars, so all is more than forgiven.
Writers: Adman McKay and Chris Henchy
Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Walberg, Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes
Release Date: August 6
When this invincible-seeming duo meets a sudden precipitous demise, there is a power vacuum back at the force. The first runners-up for their spots are Martin (Rob Riggle, formerly of the "Daily Show,") and Fosse (Damon Wayans, Jr.), a pair who are less talented, equally cocky and more douchey. Then there are our heroes: Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Hoitz (Mark Walberg), "The Other Guys."
Like all buddy-cop duos, Gamble and Hoitz start off hating each other. Walberg’s Hoitz is a tough-guy whose career and emotional stability have been crippled by a (very funny) tragic error from his past. Even so, Hoitz believes that his biggest cross to bear is being shackled to Gamble, a cheerful bureaucrat who seems to long for nothing more than maximum efficiency at endless desk work. Gamble and Hoitz are the laughing stock of the force and the bane of their football-coach-like police chief (Michael Keaton). To turn this around, they must, of course, learn to love each other, to rely on one another, and to unleash each other’s hidden potentials.
The pairing of Walberg and Ferrell turns out to be inspired. Walberg has already proved his comic chops, most notably in 2004’s "I Heart Huckabees," and this role takes full advantage of his gift for absolute, intense sincerity and commitment to the stupidest premises that can be served up to him. Ferrell, for his part, whom we all know can go so far off the deep end he’s left our orbit, is best when he’s playing a character like Gamble who is supposed to be a model of restraint. The skit here becomes Ferrell inventing new and creative ways to bait Walberg by being as inane as his partner is ferocious, and for Walberg to find new and inventive ways to respond without killing him.
"The Other Guys" has a few missteps. While it sets up the case Gamble and Hoitz try to crack as a caper featuring a major financial institutionâ€”a timely and crowd-pleasing villainâ€”it never really delivers on this promised therapy of Wall Street-bashing. It gets too caught up in the fun of Gamble and Hoitz’s bumbling to spend any time building up its villains or their crimes. Fortunately, the "other guys" are funny enough that the whole ride is worthwhile.