The Other Guys presents an interesting conundrum for this reviewer. How high does the hit to miss ratio has to be in order to qualify for a recommendation? The famous Hawk’s axiom about what constitutes a good movie, “Three great scenes, no bad ones.” Has served me well. But what do you say of a movie that has three great scenes and a few real dogs as well?
There are moments in The Other Guys that are funny as any I’ve seen in modern comedy. There are three gags in particular that are executed with such confidence, grace and expert timing that they resemble nothing so much as live action Chuck Jones. But they’re surrounded by a lot of shapeless adlibbing, frenetic spectacle and scenes where it’s desperately hoped that shouting nonsequiters will substitute for comedy.
The Other Guys follow Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell as two cops who struggle to fill the void left by two supercops (Played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. The moment in which they come to the logical conclusion of their adventures being one of the live action Chuck Jones gags I cited.)
Like I said when the movie’s on it’s on. Adam McKay is a smart director and packs his cast with comic ringers, including a very welcome Michael Keaton (who as recently proven makes almost everything better) Steve Coogan, the always welcome Ray Stevenson and a shockingly game Eva Mendes.
Wahlberg is like the movie in microcosm occasionally dead on with his timing, occasionally floundering around desperately trying to get a cue. He ricochets back and forth between “The Mark Wahlberg Character” (which he tweaks in some knowing ways) and a peacock obsessed spazz. Which is he? Whichever one it’s easier to write in said scene. Ferrell is funny, though a few times he leans on his schtick like a crutch. Similarly the movie is content to be whatever it’s convenient for it to be in a scene. The acrimony between the partners shifts with no real basis (compare their relationship to the one in Hot Fuzz for what I’m talking about) and there are so many subplots here that wheel spinning seems a polite term.
The movie similarly goes between confidence and flailing without warning.
Like I said, the film is filled with problems, narrative inconsistency, tone, plenty of needless subplots and the fact that it takes more then a power point presentation set to Rage Against The Machine to claim you have a social conscience. Yet there is no denying that in the moments where I did laugh I laughed long and hard. I guess by definition any comedy that achieves that is a successful one. So I suppose I do have to recommend The Other Guys. I just wish so much of it wasn’t so shoddy.
This is a movie that’s just begging to be improved by the judicious use of the fast forward button.