The out-there guys
Ferrell and Wahlberg are hilarious in strange screwball comedy
There’s a scene at the beginning of The Other Guys between co-leads Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg that sums up the whole experience of watching the new comedy by director/screenwriter/Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Anchorman).
In the scene, Wahlberg makes an analogy about him being a lion and Ferrell being a tuna fish, saying his lion would swim into the water and devour the tuna fish if given the chance. Ferrell dryly responds by dissecting the logic of the analogy and the scene goes on and on, the conversation gets more ridiculous, and soon you’ve drifted so far from the narrative of the film that you feel like you might’ve wandered into a different theater.
This encapsulates both what’s really good and what’s not so good about The Other Guys. What’s so good is this early scene is hilarious, and so is most every individual scene that follows. It appears as though the actors had a hand in writing their characters, and the formidable cast assembled here—which also includes Michael Keaton, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayons Jr. and a very fun Eva Mendes as Ferrell’s wife—took full advantage, putting refreshing spontaneous energy into their quirky characters. The result is a continuous string of disjointed, ridiculous, and highly enjoyable left-field comedy sketches that kept me cry-laughing throughout (Dirty Mike and the boys’ homeless sex party in Ferrell’s Prius is just one great, out-there example.)
As you might have guessed, the bad part of The Other Guys is the story. Ferrell and Wahlberg play Odd-Couple partners in the New York City police department, relegated to shuffling papers at facing desks at their precinct while a super-star tandem—played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—collects ridiculous accolades as they destroy city blocks during car chases in pursuit of bad guys and fame.
No one goes into a screwball comedy with high hopes of a stellar plot, but this is a particularly forced exercise in creating connective tissue for the sketches. A thin thread about one white-collar crook’s scam to get rich again quick in order to pay off his bad debts to a bunch of other crooks lazily drifts in and out of the action. The plot’s only purpose is to give the hapless partners a case to chase in hopes of stealing some glory in their department. It’s inane and telegraphed, and nowhere near McKay/Ferrell’s other collaborations.
Ferrell and Wahlberg are a great pair, with the latter seemingly drawing on the tough-but-sweet earnestness (“I am a peacock! You gotta let me fly!”) of his role as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights, and Ferrell testing his patience at every turn with his trademark incessant nerdiness. But The Other Guys is not a good movie—it’s just a fun hour and 45 minutes filled with some very funny sketches.