DIR: Adam McKay • WRI: Adam McKay, Chris Henchy • PRO: Patrick Crowley, Jimmy Miller • DOP: Oliver Wood • ED: Brent White • DES: Clayton Hartley • CAST: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg
The Other Guys is a pleasantly surprising way to finish a summer brimming with apathetic mediocrity. Breaking the cycle of half-baked, over-loud, gross out, themed comedy capers, this police buddy comedy manages to subdue its instincts just enough for it to be absurdly funny without becoming tediously bizarre.
Director Adam McKay is no stranger to predominantly silly comedies, principally his collaborations with Will Ferrell, the most memorable being Anchorman. But this ‘Cop-medy’ differs as it tries to ground itself, to some extent, in reality. This is aided by a moderately sensible plot and some convincing character backgrounds. It’s not a serious film, but elements of realism emphasize the parody and satire.
Ferrell is wisely/mercifully unleashed in restrained bursts, and for the most part plays it straight as the more reserved (albeit weirder) of the pairing. This sedation of character means the occasional eruption of his ‘Gator the Pimp’ persona never loses its raucous appeal. The Other Guys acts as proof that Ferrell still has the capacity to have the masses in throws of laughter. The key, it seems, is smaller doses.
Without question, the film’s success is down to one man; Mark ‘Marky Mark’ Wahlberg. He convinces as a moody, cynical foil for Ferrell’s occasional overt enthusiasm (to put it diplomatically), while his constant aggression, spliced with an obviously sensitive soul, makes for an understandably frustrated cop, and the source of the vast majority of the film’s big belly laughs.
To The Other Guys’ eternal credit, the very notion of an adolescent mastering ballet, and the harp, for the sole intention of persecuting other boys who show genuine interest in the arts, is inspired. Boys are that mean. And take pride in their craft.
Michael Keaton almost steals the show here. Keaton has been almost forgotten recently, particularly his forte for humour. But don’t forget the man was Beetlejuice, and this comedic talent shines through. Playing the frustrated, eccentric Police Captain, who is forced to moonlight in Bed, Bath and Beyond (so his college-bound son can explore bisexuality), Keaton’s screen presence never fails to induce a giggle or three, specifically his inadvertent referencing of TLC lyrics.
Admittedly the message gets a bit muddled in The Other Guys. It claims to praise the mundane, everyday sluggers who plow through thankless jobs from 9-5. This is difficult to swallow considering the central protagonists get blown up, fight off an armed biker gang and manage the notable feat of downing a helicopter with some well placed golf-balls!
This confusion can be forgiven, especially considering the action is passable enough, provides context for some hilarious back and forth between Ferrell and Wahlberg, and it wouldn’t be much of a ‘blockbuster’ unless it busted some blocks. The criticism still stands however: For a poignant message regarding everyday heroism, look elsewhere.
Why were you looking for depth in an Adam McKay film in the first place.
The Other Guys boasts arguably McKay’s best direction to date, the most satisfying version of Will Ferrellism yet, and a supporting cast who are obviously having a blast. The sense of fun and excitement is infectious, and despite its flaws, it’s a vehicle for a performer I think we would all like to see more of, Marky Mark.
Jack Mc Glynn