The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Other Guys
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are not those guys. They're The Other Guys.

By this point, spoofs of buddy cop movies are more or less played out. There have been so many of them - including last winter's Cop Out - that it's a wonder any film could find anything new to bring to the table. The Other Guys doesn't really have much luck on that count either, but it circumvents the problem by simply going off on whatever tangent it feels like. Another effort from Will Ferrell and creative partner Adam McKay, the movie has the kind of rambling, improvised feel of their earlier collaborations, albeit with a slightly decreased ratio of laughs.

Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, a detective in the NYPD (and when I say "detective," I really mean "desk jockey"). Like most of the other cops in the squad, he looks up to two hotshots - Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson) - who engage in your typical Riggs & Murtaugh-style antics. This irritates his partner, Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), to no end. Hoitz is tightly-wound and furious that he's been stuck in the office ever since an unfortunate gun discharge accident. Determined to get back out on the beat come hell or high water, Hoitz forces Gamble to respond to a police call that comes in one day.

I wish I could tell you more about that, but The Other Guys really doesn't have a plot. Oh, it tries to convince you that it has one. There's a crooked businessman named David Ershon (Steve Coogan) who is conducting some sort of Ponzi scheme, and a "personal security" agent who is supposedly protecting Ershon but may actually be part of a blackmail plot, andů

Well, who cares? The movie itself sure doesn't. For me, this was the biggest flaw of The Other Guys. Good luck following anything that's going on. It all seems made up on the spot. The end credits provide graphs and illustrations about Ponzi schemes, bank bailouts, and golden parachutes for CEOs, as though everything that had transpired in the previous 102 minutes was actually about something when, in fact, it wasn't.

The humor essentially makes up for the incoherent plot. As in just about any Will Ferrell comedy, this is a work of absurdism, where you never know what's going to happen from one minute to the next. Perhaps sensing that spoofing the conventions of buddy cop movies was worn out, Ferrell and McKay simply use the structure of the genre as an excuse to throw a bunch of bizarre stuff at the wall to see what sticks. We therefore get Ferrell's wife (Eva Mendes) who seems hot to everyone but him, a band of homeless perverts who take a shine to Gamble's car, and a police chief (Michael Keaton) who likes to quote TLC songs.

The Other Guys can be hit or miss, but when it hits, the result is a huge laugh. When it misses, it's usually because the buddy cop genre is a somewhat awkward fit for Ferrell's humor. Typically, the settings for his comedies are very insular (70's TV station, the world of NASCAR, etc.), and populated with broad caricatures (Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby). This time, the settings and characters have at least one foot in the real world, and so the movie is never able to be as deliriously loopy as Anchorman and Talledega Nights were.

Nevertheless, enough about it works sufficiently to merit a recommendation. Will Ferrell always cracks me up; heck, I even liked Land of the Lost. His chemistry with Mark Wahlberg is surprisingly good. Wahlberg is not necessarily the first person you'd think of for a comedy, yet he really scores. For the first time in a long time, he looks like he's having fun on screen. Jackson, Johnson, and Keaton all earn laughs too, as do some famous faces in inspired cameos. I also enjoyed - as I usually do - the oddball, rambling spirit of a Ferrell/McKay production. The best parts of the film are generally the ones that go off track to explore strange little corners. Trust me: you'll be talking about a "soup kitchen" for months to come.

The Other Guys nails the grimy look of many pictures about NYC cops. The action scenes are relatively well staged, although because this is a comedy, they don't necessarily thrill as they might in a genuine action flick. Then again, this movie is all about the laughs, and there were enough of them here for my taste. The Other Guys celebrates not the macho action heroes but rather the dudes who sit at their desks while the action heroes are out doing the extraordinary. It's a funny premise - one that the film wrings a respectable amount of comedy from. Not Will Ferrell's best, but still solid.

( out of four)

The Other Guys is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence, and some drug material. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.