Even when they try to make him more foolhardy in the second half the result is Ferrell simply falling back on old tricks, which amounts to nothing more than manic laziness.  Oh, he's erupting in sudden fits of rage while shouting nonsensical tantrums … again. 

Ferrell is, as always, wiling to commit all the way for a laugh, which is in itself entertaining, and McKay as a director puts together some nice action-movie send-ups.  Yet when it comes to feature-length storytelling, the dedication clearly wanes and begins to bore.  A few scenes even end abruptly, as if the intent for some was simply to ad-lib, leaving McKay to bail on the moment when it stopped being funny.  It's as if the studio paid them primarily to make each other laugh on set, but to make an actual movie was a mere afterthought.

The cast salvages the slapdash material, but only to a degree.  Steve Coogan (Night at the Museum) provides a natural comic energy as the main fat-cat corporate suspect, Eva Mendes (Hitch) is serviceable as the housewife whose cover-girl looks are lost on Gamble, and the other police detectives do just fine with their given bits. 

Still, like the leads, at some point they're all just one-note.  They all hit their comedic beats pretty well, but it's the same beat over and over again (as opposed to earlier Ferrell films in which characters continued to surprise).  The lone standouts are Johnson and Jackson in their extended cameos as the hotshot cops, and Michael Keaton (who's been out of comedy for way too long!) as the police chief who unwittingly quotes TLC lyrics in everyday conversation.

Ten years ago, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay gave us comedy we hadn't seen before.  Well, we've seen it now.  I hope they continue to stick to their specific brand, but it needs a new flavor.  It always will.  That will take more effort than offered up here (which isn't much) or they'll be in danger of becoming comedy's version of this film's title.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:  Beer and wine are consumed.  Men are drunk in a bar.  Another scene depicts still images of partying at a bar (and includes a man standing on top of a pool table while urinating).
  • Language/Profanity:  A full variety of PG-13 profanities are used, and often (including the two common forms of using the Lord's name in vain).  No "F" words, but most everything else.  The "s" word is most pervasive, sexual dialogue is used for excess machismo and shock value (including crass words for male and female genitalia), as well as a derogatory manner (variations of the "b" word).  Also, crass "pimp" related dialogue and humor.  Lewd "excrement" words are used.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  One man tells another how he's become aroused.  A woman talks about how firm her breasts are (and cups them).  A lewd (but not graphic) discussion about an orgy (with semen references).  An old woman describes various sexual requests.
  • Violence/Other:  A lot of action violence involving shootings, fights, explosions and so on—but always in a comedic context.


Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla.  He is also cohost of "Steelehouse Podcast," along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture. 

To listen to the weekly podcast, please visit www.steelehouse.com
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