The Other Guys

By Adam Lippe

Screaming non-sequiturs at the top of your lungs will only get you so far in life. If you’re Will Ferrell, it can get you a financially successful, but poorly made, one-note comedy like Stepbrothers. The fatal flaw of Step Brothers is that Ferrell and John C. Reilly spent their time bellowing profanity at each other at the beginning of the film and never stopped. That no one thought it might be funnier to start out quietly and then build to the shouting is unfortunate; it meant that there was no set of ground rules to bounce off of, no straight man to be the juxtaposition to the wacky.

In Adam McKay’s cop-buddy parody The Other Guys, there are no ground rules and Ferrell is his own straight man, as his partner played by Mark Wahlberg seems to have no idea how to roll with the improv punches. Ferrell begins The Other Guys as an introverted nerd and builds his way to, well, a confused nerd, who occasionally shouts.

As is true with other McKay/Ferrell films (Talladega Nights, Anchorman, Step Brothers), a coherent narrative is way down the list of priorities, it’s more important for Ferrell to throw out his standard non-sequiturs (“lion tastes good, let’s go get some more lion,” “and the children all got pinkeye”), and hope the other comedians can play along. That can work with some of the players in The Other Guys, specifically Rob Riggle, as an arrogant and thoughtless cop who instructs a classroom of small kids that if you want to stay out of trouble, “it’s best not to be black or Hispanic.”

But Riggle has only a few minutes of screen time, most of the non-Ferrell moments involve Wahlberg hemming and hawing and getting perpetually angry about being belittled by his co-workers for not being a particularly slick police officer. Wahlberg has only one mode as an actor, the petulant teenager, and it’s further exposed by the Mckay/Ferrell style of just letting the camera roll until somebody says something funny. No matter what Ferrell or co-stars Michael Keaton or Steve Coogan do, Wahlberg pouts and rants. It’s one of the many reasons that The Other Guys falls off the rails pretty early on.

That there’s not much of a sense of pacing or continuity in The Other Guys is unsurprising, that’s going to happen if you show up on the set and throw out nonsense, hoping it will stick, not worrying about the consistency of tone from scene to scene. It’s why this expensive ($100 million) movie looks terrible, the color scheme changes from shot to shot, characters disappear for long stretches, and why it feels like there’s been hours cut out of the movie. As always with a McKay/Ferrell production, there is no discernible difference between the outtakes and what made it into the movie.

That Ferrell’s patented random hostility rears its head early is another stumbling block, there’s a very confusing subplot where this mild-mannered milquetoast is incredibly hostile to his wife, there’s been no set-up or preparation for their discussions or his behavior. This might all work if The Other Guys were funny, but with all the bizarre outbursts, it plays like a rambling toddler making loud noises, hoping you’ll laugh.

The only truly funny moments in The Other Guys, at least after the first ½ hour, are the closing credits. It’s not that we get the standard credit bloopers, but rather a completely serious financial lecture using animated graphics about how corporations rip off the public and how monopolies hurt the economy. Keep that in mind when The Other Guys, a Sony film, comes to Blu-ray, a technology that Sony owns the patent on.

Note: An abbreviated version of this reviews appears in this week’s issues of the Germantown Chronicle and the Mt. Airy Independent.

1 comment on “The Other Guys”

  1. Theatre is art. Comedy is art. It’s meant to be enjoyed, and laughed at. Clearly, you are not the target audience. Stepbrothers was stupid because it’s like it was written with 10 yr olds in mind, I watched it with my kids and we found it outrageously funny. What made The Other Guys so funny is the combination of crazy Ferrell with non-reacting Wahlberg… truly laughable.

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On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.