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Film review: 'The Other Guys' makes for arresting entertainment

August 10, 2010|By BOB GARVER

We get three hilarious teams in "The Other Guys" - two on-screen, the other off.

Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson play a pair of hotshot cops who steal about three minutes of screen time, but are eliminated quickly. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play a pair of cops who make up the rest of the movie. They have terrific chemistry and there's nothing wrong with them. But the best team in the movie is the fourth pairing of Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay.

McKay has directed Ferrell in all his best films - "Anchorman" (2004), "Talladega Nights" (2006) and "Step Brothers" (2008). The duo has never made a bad film and they aren't starting with this one. McKay has the good sense to cast Ferrell as the more subdued member of the team (he actually likes that they do paperwork all day) because Ferrell's performances lately have made him known for screaming and annoyingly broad acting. He gets laughs for losing his cool a few times in "The Other Guys," but at least he establishes that there's a cool to lose.

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Mark Wahlberg is the other half of the team, and he turns in an enjoyable comedic performance as well. He's a career cop looking for excitement, but haunted by memories of a botched shooting. He claims to be a peacock who needs to fly (apparently they don't). Wahlberg isn't known for being funny (except for his rapping career, but that may have only been funny unintentionally), but based on this performance he certainly has a future in it.

The film is a "buddy cop" movie, a genre that the film has fun with and makes funny without actually spoofing. In other words it'll take cliches of the genre (say, the chief confiscating the weapons of the heroes) and you'll say "Ha! Look what they did with that" instead of "Ugh! Look what they did to that."

The film will go down as a funny buddy cop movie, not a painful comedy that tries to make fun of buddy cop movies.

The twist to the gun cliche is that Ferrell is given a wooden gun as punishment for misusing his real one. He manages to misuse this, too (the film actually comes up with several creative misuses), so he is given something even wimpier.

Ferrell takes Wahlberg home for a partners' dinner, where his wife turns out to be a refreshingly game Eva Mendes. Michael Keaton is terrific as the typically hard-nosed chief who has to work a second job. Keaton is having a good summer, first stealing "Toy Story 3" and now this.

The Ferrell/Wahlberg chemistry and handling of buddy cop conventions are the funniest things about "The Other Guys," which is good because they distracts from the mess that is the film's plot.

There's some bad business going on involving a professional investor (Steve Coogan), but the film jumps around in the details and I couldn't follow any of it. Unfortunately, things are made even worse at the end of the film when over the credits the film hastily presents information about Ponzi schemes and corporate bailouts. This is a poor decision, the film has no business being an "issue" film. There's also a subplot involving a rival cop team (Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr.) that goes absolutely nowhere. But there are scenes involving Coogan's bribes and a fight between the teams at an inappropriate location that make up for the storylines' shortcomings.

There's really nothing that "The Other Guys" does that's fancy, it's just a funny, familiar movie with some funny performances. I won't remember it at the end of the year, but I walked away grinning. That's all the film asks from people. I want to show this film to the people who made "Dinner for Schmucks" and ask if it's really so hard to perform at this level.

"The Other Guys" is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence, and some drug material. Its runtime is 107 minutes.

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