Ferrell's Just Coasting in an Uninspired Other Guys
- Friday, August 06, 2010
DVD Release Date: December 14, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: August 6, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material)
Run Time: 107 min.
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr.
After a legendary run on Saturday Night Live and subsequent instant classics on the big screen, Will Ferrell became the breakout comic star of the past decade. Recent efforts, however, have offered diminishing returns and his latest continues that decline.
That's not to say it's a complete disaster; The Other Guys definitely has its moments (an early face-off about "Lions vs. Tuna" comes to mind). For anyone who loves Ferrell's brand of absurd man-child humor, you get more of that here—but only in fits and starts. If his early films felt consistently inspired, this one follows the trend of feeling more like a work-for-hire. Ferrell's just coasting here, as is the whole movie.
The premise is simple and has potential. Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg (Date Night, The Departed) play the titular "other guys" Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz, schlubby everyday New York City cops who don't make the headlines or get the glory. That distinction goes to Detectives Danson and Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson), two rule-breaking one-liner hotshots who are loved and admired by all regardless of how much mayhem and destruction they leave in their wake.
Their buddy-cop bravado outshines everyone else in the department, especially Gamble and Hoitz who are true opposites. Wahlberg's Hoitz is a disgraced adrenaline junkie from the Bronx who's paired with Ferrell's (ironically-named) Gamble, a straight-laced accountant desk jockey who's never left the safe confines of the office, let alone fired a gun, and is an easy stooge for pranks.
After the high profile duo is taken out of commission, it's up to Gamble and Hoitz to follow the paper trail of a corrupt laundering scheme that becomes more dangerous (and explosive) than the nature of the crime would initially suggest.
The conceit is obvious: put two mismatched underachievers into scenarios usually consigned to macho slick-talking action-movie renegades that are as smooth with the women as they are proficient with any-and-all forms of explosives and weaponry—and comedy will ensue. And it does. Occasionally. At times. Here and there. But not always, or even enough.
The inconsistent execution is particularly disappointing as it's not only a Will Ferrell vehicle, but is produced with longtime collaborator writer/director Adam McKay who steered the endlessly inventive and quotable earlier works Anchorman and Talladega Nights. The Other Guys is in that vein but pales in comparison.
The script plays like a patchwork of sketch-comedy ideas that were never developed into a larger narrative; it feels like a first draft. Some would accuse their earlier films of the same problem (I wouldn't), but those also had the benefit of a strong central comic creation with uniquely brash traits. Here, Ferrell's straight-laced and super-nice Gamble isn't nearly as hilarious or distinct as Ron Burgundy or Ricky Bobby.
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.
- 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 or click here. You can also subscribe to "Steelehouse Podcast" through iTunes.
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