Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr.
Written and directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers) with Chris Henchy
Genre: Comedy, Action
Plot Summary: When the city's top cops Danson and Manzetti (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) are taken out of commission, desk jockey Detective Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and his unlucky partner Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) have to step up and solve a crime that they're clearly not prepared for.
Mini-Review: If you think (or have hoped) you've seen the last of the buddy cop action-comedy genre, you might want to hold that thought, at least to see what Will Ferrell and his long-time collaborator Adam McKay do when they get their hands on it.
The movie follows two detectives from a busy Manhattan precinct who have been assigned to desk jockey jobs. While Mark Walhberg's Hoitz wants nothing more than to be on the streets fighting crime, his partner Ferrell's Gamble is more content remaining in a place that's safe and quiet. When the city's top risk-taking cops, played with suitable bravado by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, are no longer available, it leaves a gap open for other city police officers to fill their shoes. Instead of being about fighting terrorists or drugdealers or gangs, "The Other Guys" takes place in the world of financial crime, which allows for a more intelligent and relevant modern take on the police comedy than we've maybe ever seen. Surprisingly, Ferrell doesn't turn this into a one-man show where he's constantly eating up scenery, instead being generous enough to allow every other actor around him to have their moments, especially Wahlberg who's able to hold his own and proves himself to be able to make some of Ferrell's schtick even funnier with his reactions. On paper, one might not think this pairing would work, but it proves to be one that keeps you well invested in their story.
An even bigger surprise than how funny Wahlberg can be is seeing Michael Keaton enter the FerrellMcKayVerse without batting an eye and being spot-on with his ability to make every scene funnier with his ad-libs and expressions. Similarly, Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr. are allowed to run rampant on the improv, maybe taking it a little too far at times even as they're getting in many good jabs in at Hoitz and Gamble's expense. There are a couple of really funny scenes where Eva Mendes gets to play up the fact she's obviously way out of Ferrell's league, and an even funnier bit involving her mother later in the movie. Steve Coogan has had better roles than playing the CEO who lost billions whom everyone wants to get their hands on, made more apparent by the fact some of the cameo performers like Bobby Canavale get more laughs with just a line or two.
As would be expected, there are a ton of funny gags and once in a while, the movie veers into a sort of "kitchen sink" craziness that makes it even more entertaining. There's a bit of backstory to Gamble's character that's a bit silly and Ferrell plays it out, taking it maybe a little too far to be funny. Other examples include a rather random slo-mo rap video montage of Hoitz and Gamble out drinking and the creation of a new type of sex orgy involving homeless people inside Gambel's stolen then abandoned car. As funny as McKay's more visual ideas are, it does make the movie uneven at times, unsure how far to take the humor while trying to maintain an air of being set in the real world. This is something made more obvious by the odd political bent McKay takes with the end credits, serious animated graphics ala "An Inconvenient Truth" that dissects some of the bigger financial crimes of the last few years.
The movie's biggest achievement is not ruining all the funniest jokes with the commercials and trailers; in fact, they may not even give an accurate idea how truly funny the movie really is. Either way, while "The Other Guys" may not resonate as soundly as "Step Brothers" or be as quotable as "Anchorman," it's certainly another one chalked up in the "win" column for Ferrell and McKay.
Certainly, no summer could possibly come to an end without Will Ferrell popping up with at least one comedy, and this summer's offering bodes well for the comic actor, being that it's his fourth movie with long-time collaborator and partner Adam McKay, who has directed two of Ferrell's biggest hits and helped create some of Ferrell's most memorable characters like Ron Burgundy from Anchorman and Ricky Bobby for Talladega Nights. This time, they've decided to tackle their own version of the buddy cop comedy, a genre that's lead to a number of huge franchises including Eddie Murphy's "Beverly Hills Cop" movies, the "Lethal Weapon" series, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's Bad Boys and Brett Ratner's "Rush Hour" movies. In recent years, the genre hasn't been as lucrative as in the '90s, the most recent example of the genre being Kevin Smith's Cop Out, teaming Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, which opened with $18 million and $45 million total earlier this year. That's not a good sign that moviegoers still want to see this type of comedy, although one expects Ferrell has a bigger fanbase than either Willis or Morgan at this point.
That said, Will Ferrell is in a strange place in his career, because for every $100 million hit, he has two to three disappointments and a few outright bombs. If you just look at the movies made with McKay, that would be Anchorman ($84 million gross), Talladega Nights ($148 million) and Step Brothers ($100 million). It's hard to tell exactly why the movies in between: The Producers, Semi-Pro and Land of the Lost, ranging from $19 to $49 million gross, didn't do nearly as well, except there has been a lot of talk in recent years about whether Ferrell is funny anymore or whether he's just doing the same thing over and over in a different setting (or sport). One thing that certainly seems to be a common factor is that Sony knows how to better market a Will Ferrell comedy than other studios, and that putting Ferrell into any movie based on another property (i.e. a television remake or musical) is just asking for trouble. Ferrell's character in The Other Guys is a little less crazed than some of his more outlandish characters, that's for sure, but he also seems to deliberately be toning down his humor, which means Sony doesn't have that much to work with in terms of jokes for the trailers/commercials.
What Ferrell does have this time around is a solid co-star in Mark Wahlberg, who is not really known for doing comedy, though earlier this year, he stole a number of scenes in the Steve Carell-Tina Fey comedy Date Night. Wahlberg has done quite a few police dramas over the years, most notably Martin Scorsese's The Departed, for which he got an Oscar nomination, and James Gray's We Own the Night. The key is that Wahlberg does a lot more serious dramatic roles, which means he'll bring another layer to the humor, likely playing the straight man. The movie also stars Eva Mendes, who has done comedy in the past, most notably Hitch with Will Smith, and she's been doing the talk show rounds for the movie as has Michael Keaton, who is doing comedy for the first time in many years. There's also some bonus starpower from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, who have smaller roles, although they'll certainly help with the urban audiences that normally dig action-comedies.
It's certainly going to appeal more towards younger guys than to women, which means it's not as four-quadrant as something like Step Brothers, which played on a far more mainstream premise about dysfunctional family relations. There's certainly room for a movie for guys to do well in theaters with Christopher Nolan's Inception having been out for weeks, and the police genre may bring in a different audience than Ferrell normally brings in.
The Other Guys may be Ferrell and McKay's biggest budget movie since Talladega Nights and it's opening the same early August weekend (as well as the same weekend as the HUGE buddy cop hit Rush Hour 2), and presumably, it's one of the last viable summer weekends where a lot of people are still around before going on vacation in the second half of August. The past few years have seen many huge hits targeted specifically for the guys coming out in August, especially last year with the trifecta of G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, District 9 and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and Sony is hoping that they can get some of those guys this week before aiming for the ladies next week with Julia Roberts' Eat Pray Love.
Sony has been doing their usual amount of mass promotion but they're also releasing the movie into more theaters than either Step Brothers or Talladega Nights. They're also advertising the movie as being "from the director of 'Talladega Nights' and 'Step Brothers'" which will certainly drive home the point that The Other Guys will probably be one of Ferrell's funnier/better comedies, and supposedly, the commercials aren't giving away the funniest jokes. Still, it will be focusing more on the comedy than the action, and in that sense it's more like the buddy comedy Starsky & Hutch starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson--Ferrell had a small uncredited role--as opposed to something to be taken seriously as an action flick.
There are a couple of things working against the movie, mostly the movie's old hat retro genre and Ferrell's fickle audience, and though we do think it will open better than Anchorman and Step Brothers, we just can't see this having the huge opening of Talladega Nights. It's also likely to be hurt by the number of action movies out next week, though if word-of-mouth is good, it could pick up some business in the slower weeks of late-August.
Why I Should See It: Ferrell and McKay have proven themselves to be quite a formidable comedy pairing, and The Other Guys should continue that run.
Why Not: It feels like a step backwards for them to take on the buddy cop genre, which was already played out by the end of the '90s.