I’m continually amazed by the film industry’s ability to take a great idea and completely ruin it; movies that seem to be surefire hits fail with such regularity that they threaten to become the rule rather than the exception. Very rarely, an idea that seems to have no chance of success somehow beats the odds and makes you forget about all of the failures of those supposed perfect ideas.
The Other Guys definitely belongs to the latter category. The ability of writer Adam McKay and Will Ferrell to make an action-comedy about NYPD officers seems like an impossibility, but this might just be the best movie that this duo has made together. While it may not have the lasting quotability effect of Anchorman, its overall quality makes it a surprisingly hilarious and riveting ride.
The Other Guys tells the story of the cops in the background — the ones who do the paperwork and sit at their desks most of the time. Sure, they may not jump through the air while firing twin pistols like the “real cops,” but when the star officers are out of the picture, they still have an important job to do. Soon, they become tangled in a story of corporate greed and big explosions.
It’s somewhat unfortunate that the film never really delivers on its attempt to lambaste the financial sector in America, at least not until the many facts and figures displayed in the credits. Really, the film’s least enjoyable aspects occur thanks to its focus on a corporate conspiracy, as it never seems to commit to telling the story. Sure, it’s all about money and AIG and whatnot, but the film fails to really make us care about what it’s trying to say. It just isn’t a good story.
It’s when the film focuses on everything else that the movie really succeeds. This is especially true when comedy is the sole focus — there are a few conversations between Ferrell’s and Wahlberg’s characters that feel like extended experiments in an improv troupe, and they’re fantastic for being both random and surprisingly well-written. Similarly, the one-liners are both original and hilarious, and while the concentration of comedy isn’t consistent throughout the film, this is a seriously funny couple of hours.
While Ferrell and Wahlberg do a great job, the supporting cast does a fantastic job. My love of Michael Keaton is well-documented, and his hard-ass captain/Bed Bath and Beyond associate character made the perfect absurd combination for me, especially after the fifth or sixth time he inserted TLC lyrics into everyday conversation. Actors like Sam Jackson and The Rock are used to perfection despite their relatively short appearances.
It’s a shame that the actual story isn’t quite as smart as some of the comedy is, but The Other Guys still offers a great combination of good writing and crude but well-executed laughs, which should extend its appeal beyond the typical Ferrell/McKay outing. The action is surprisingly exciting with some pretty remarkable vehicular carnage in New York City and a lot of unnecessary explosions. It’s not the best action movie, comedy, or police film that you’ll see this year, but on the whole this is a great choice for a weekend rental or a sale purchase, and it’s a better way to spend two hours than chasing waterfalls.
Overall Score: 7.95 — Good. (7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.)