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TBTS Reviews: The Other Guys

August 24, 2010

Ferrell and Wahlberg give Steve Coogan the business

The opening of Adam McKay’s The Other Guys looks very much like any other film you might see in the middle of August — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson tear through the streets of New York in a furious car chase, exchanging witty quips they clearly don’t have time to be thinking up and destroying massive amounts of property.

In fact, though you could never pull it off these days,  it would have perhaps been a great joke if McKay had duped audiences into thinking they were at a Jackson and The Rock action film, since the two very bankable blow-em-up stars aren’t the headliners of this movie at all. The Other Guys, as you no doubt know by now, focuses on Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz, two nobodies who in any other movie would be relegated to spear-carrying parts in the background of a police station scene. As it is, however, Allen (who plays a by-the-book forensic accountant) and Terry (a hothead cop disgraced by an unfortunate accident from his past) rise to the occasion when they stumble upon a nefarious plot helmed by crooked businessman David Ershon (a game, if underused, Steve Coogan).

The plot Ershon has cooking isn’t particularly interesting, nor does it particularly make any real sense, but that’s not the point. The point is that McKay and screenwriter Chris Henchy, both the founders of the consistently solid FunnyOrDie website, have turned their sights toward skewering the summer popcorn movie. The elements are all here in some loopy form or another, from Allen’s doting, worrying wife at home (a very funny Eva Mendes) to Terry’s snarling bulldog cop routine to Michael Keaton’s harried, put-upon police captain — who moonlights as a manager at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

The beauty of The Other Guys comes from the performances of Wahlberg and Ferrell, both trying out something new: Wahlberg, traditionally known as a guy who takes himself fairly seriously, has fun sending up his own persona; Ferrell, not known for his subtle character work, plays Allen with a high-strung restraint. The two are so much fun to watch together that one slightly wishes the movie had been just Farrell and Wahlberg riding around in a car together. McKay shoots the entire thing in a washed-out homage to Lethal Weapon and others — all the way down to the bluesy saxophone music — and ultimately turns The Other Guys into a worthy follow-up to Anchorman and Talledega Nights, even if the former isn’t ever quite as silly as the latter two.

In its first couple of weeks, despite a fairly strong showing in the box office, The Other Guys seems to have been sorely glossed over in the midst of overhyped contemporaries like Dinner for Schmucks, Salt and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World — and that’s disappointing, especially since The Other Guys is a quick but very funny entry to the summer proceedings. I can understand why McKay and company would undersell the film a little bit, since some of the surprises are best not known before watching, but The Other Guys deserves a little word-of-mouth. As it is, it’s exactly one of those movies which — when you eventually pass by it on TNT or TBS on a Saturday afternoon — will become a repeated viewing. And that’s not at all a terrible legacy for a movie. Just don’t forget it’s out there in the wake of more in-your-face fare this summer.

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