Sunday, August 8, 2010
TEFB REVIEW: THE OTHER GUYS
Directed by Adam McKay
Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Steve Coogan
If Scott Pilgrim vs. the World wasn't hitting theaters next week, I would declare The Other Guys the funniest film of the summer. Which, while it may seem like high praise, really isn't, considering the mostly comedic dreck released since late May. The truth is that if The Other Guys was as consistent in delivering laughs as Scott Pilgrim, it would easily take the aforementioned title from Edgar Wright's latest. Unfortunately, The Other Guys is one-third classic comedy and two-thirds a serviceable bone-tickler.
The film begins as bad-ass crime busting partners PK Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) chase after a group of Jamaican drug lords. These are THE GUYS. The cops every other cop wants to be. If there's a ever a spin-off film about characters from The Other Guys, I'd love to see it feature PK Highsmith and Christopher Danson. Jackson and Johnson are hilarious together, and the opening scenes really set the bar high for the rest of the film comedically. After an accident (one of the best gags of the film) render Highsmith and Danson incapacitated, their colleagues at the NYPD fight to become the department's top team, including simpleton Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell, taking a break from playing his standard un-self aware narcissistic dunderhead to play a very self-aware, simple dunderhead) and his short-fused partner Terry Holtz (Mark Wahlberg). After inadvertently stumbling onto white-collar criminal David Ershon (Steve Coogan), Holtz (a guy who outwardly displays his barely buried anger by having a computer desktop background of a different shark every day) and Gamble decide to use the case as a springboard to glory, doing everything they can to step on the toes of a rival partnership of detectives (a very funny Rob Wriggle and an even funnier Damon Wayans Jr.) and impress their Captain (Michael Keaton, who gets the best running gag - involving R&B trio TLC - in the film).
Although many genuinely funny moments are sprinkled throughout The Other Guys, it is at times a frustrating comedy to watch. As previously mentioned, the first half hour to forty minutes is a masterfully directed and performed comedic affair. The quotable lines come rapid fire, and the energy of the cast keeps the film moving along at a brisk pace, even as the plot set-up (featuring a blink-and-you'll-miss-her Anne Heche) works hard to drag the first act down. Writers Adam McKay (who also directed) and Chris Henchy attempt to create an honest to goodness labyrinthine crime-caper, but fail miserably. Side plots range from hilarious (Ferrell's home-life with his Hell-hot wife played by Eva Mendes) to embarrassing (Wahlberg's stalking of an ex girlfriend). Throughout, the cast constantly comes to the film's rescue, bailing out the sub-par writing and general ugliness of the cinematography. (Yes, comedies need a capable director of photography too. There's no excuse for the drab, drained look of The Other Guys. It genuinely hurts the movie).
Structurally, the film crumbles during the second and third acts. When this happens, the laughs are sucked straight out of The Other Guys, and long periods passed in the theater before chuckles could be heard. The big moments that do occur (including a running gag involving homeless men that use Ferrell's car to engage in some unsavory behavior (I'll never be able to look at a soup kitchen as a good thing ever again)) are welcome, but serve to highlight the general unevenness of the film's latter half, hence where the frustration set in. When a film delivers laughs as big as The Other Guys, it kills to be so inconsistent. McKay and Ferrell are more than capable of a great collaboration - they started out swimmingly with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
As inconsistent and frustrating as it is, though, The Other Guys still manages to be very, very funny in places, and is perhaps the most quotable film of the summer. It also pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating - I have a feeling there's a much funnier, more daring cut of the film on the floor of the editor's suite.
I'm willing to bet that The Other Guys will be a film that grows on me. Thinking about the film as I review it, I'm already starting to smile at many of the jokes I can recall. It does hit the funny bone an awful lot, but I would have liked it to smash me there more than it did.
The following is a collection of alternate-takes of jokes featured in the movie. No spoilers.