Friday, August 6, 2010

Mediocre 'Other Guys' features Ferrell in cop parody

By Steve Crum
When I think of The Other Guys, like virtually any Will Ferrell movie, I think of Olympia Beer. Except instead of the slogan, “It’s the water,” the Ferrell motto is, “It’s the writing.” This is more a negative than a compliment, since The Other Guys suffers from a premise that pays off in the first 10 minutes of the story. Up to that point, the writing is fun, fast, and full of broad parody. The remainder of the film has spurts of laughs, but is laden with a Will Ferrell central character purposely lackluster and dull.

Writers Adam McKay (who also directed) and Chris Henchy deserve a little praise and a bunch of grief over their treatment. At least McKay’s previous screenplays (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers) cast Ferrell as aggressive egocentrics and, as such, interesting to watch. Ferrell’s Allen Gamble in The Other Guys plays against that type, and places the prominent comic role upon co-star Mark Wahlberg (as Gamble’s partner, Terry Holtz), who can act humorously, but is not a comedian. It turns out that the funniest person in the movie, after the opening sequence, is Michael Keaton’s police captain, Gene Mauch.

And that opening sequence, without ruining its gag, features Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. It is slam, bang action, and hilarious.

The story kicks off with NYC police detectives Christopher Danson and P.K. Highsmith (Johnson and Jackson) showcasing why they are press and public favorites as the most feared and successful cops on the force. The macho duo relish spectacular car chases, tote magnum-plus pistols, and thrive on adulation. They are heroes inside the squad room as well, even to undistinguished officers Gamble and Holtz. They are the forgotten “other guys” referred to in the title. In fact, Officer Gamble prefers being a desk jockey, since he desires nothing more than being an accountant. “I just want to be an accountant for law and order,” says Gamble. His pal Holtz, however, was relegated to a desk job after failing on a security detail involving a well known football star. He desperately wants another chance to prove his mettle.

Inevitably, the two get their chance on the street. There is a bar fight featuring a funny Irish round robin of singing as well as a ballet (!) by Ferrell’s Gamble, and a suicide call gone awry, But the funniest set-up, sustained throughout the film, is Gamble’s insistence that gorgeous women like his wife (Eva Mendes) mean little to him. Yet they are physically attracted to his dorky demeanor everywhere he goes.

Ferrell’s forte, in fact, is the overextended joke or shtick. Do the gag, lace it with outrageousness (like pulling down or off your pants), get the shock value laugh, and...keep on with it, wringing the laugh empty. His humor is of the adult child, often given to the “I hit you last” or “I know you are, but what am I” variety, as in Step Brothers.

Above all, Ferrell’s butt cheeks he displays for absurd hardy-har-hars has been integral to his comedy. That is what’s both right and wrong about his Allen Gamble character in The Other Guys. No booty show here. That is a refreshingly good exclusion. Then again, what does that leave Ferrell with except to overdo each and every set-up. Push the punchline to the max. Squeeze the laugh past its potential. Timing is nothing unless it is exceeded. This is also a common fault of Saturday Night Live sketches, Ferrell’s training ground.

It has been said before that Will Ferrell movies would be funnier if trimmed and refined to a half hour max. The Other Guys sure qualifies.
GRADE on an A to F Scale: C
Enjoy highlights of The Other Guys in its trailer:

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