Directed by Adam McKay
We're all still waiting for the great Will Ferrell comedy, the Liar Liar or Pink Panther or even Wedding Crashers that catapults him into the final stratosphere for comedic actors. After watching The Other Guys, it's clear we'll be waiting for a while longer. That isn't to say however, that The Other Guys isn't worth seeing. In fact, it lets you know right away that you're in one of the good Will Ferrell movies. For one thing, you're laughing almost immediately. The situation (Will Ferrell as a…) is only slightly absurd and he's paired with an actor who can play it straight and funny (Mark Wahlberg). The biggest difference between good Ferrell (Talladega Nights, Anchor Man) and bad Ferrell (Semi-Pro, Blades of Glory) however, is that he has a director capable of constraining him. In this case, it's Adam McKay. It's odd to say about a comedian who's so physical, but Ferrell is better when he's doing his thing with facial expressions and ridiculously obvious but inappropriate comments. What most people miss is that a large part of that comes from the goodwill he generates with his bumbling, innocent persona. (Have we ever seen an actor so political that is welcomed so easily on both sides of the aisle?)
In The Other Guys, Will Ferrell is an accountant/police officer who loves his desk job. His partner, Mark Wahlberg, is a former up and coming detective who's been forced to pair with Ferrell because of an unfortunate incident earlier in his career. Together, they get an opportunity to go after "a big one." It's a buddy cop movie with the twist that these buddy cops are clearly not heroic types.
In terms of straight guys, Wahlberg is good. As much as we've grown to appreciate his action abilities, he's just as good doing comedy. Unfortunately, his character here isn't defined as clearly as it needs to be. There are too many inconsistencies, and too often you find yourself saying "how can he do that?" I'm quibbling though, because when the two stars are arguing or "starting fresh", the chemistry is legitimate and funny. Eva Mendez has a role as the "perfect wife", as last played by Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary, and she handles it well enough. (She's asked to be hot, and she comes through with, err, flying colours)
Ferrell's movies, even his best, remind me a bit of Adam Sandler's work. There's funny stuff there, but the work feels incomplete. Especially in the second half of the films. And make no mistake, the second half of the movie is the difference between a great comedy and a good one. A great comedy makes you laugh all the way through and somehow manages to be poignant while twanging slightly on your heartstrings. A good comedy, which is hard enough, merely makes you smile and laugh. In that, The Other Guys is a good comedy. There's a number of laugh out loud moments, a great deal of smiling, and a buffet of quotables for the water cooler. We still haven't seen a great Will Ferrell comedy, but The Other Guys is another good one, and seeing as how rare that is these days, that will do for now.
**** (Out of Five)
Copyright Stephen Burns 2010