The best comedies are consistently funny and, hopefully, smartly written. The Other Guys never had a chance to reach that level. Much like its two protagonist, the film wallows in mediocrity while bigger and better comedies, like Easy A and Cyrus, sneak their way on to top 10 lists and favorite comedies of the year. The Other Guys is left out of the loop, only to look in envy and jealousy as other comedies rake in the lauds and praise that could have been theirs.
P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) are the two biggest cops in New York City. As the two tear the city apart in the name of justice, order and badassness, Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) is content to keep to investigating various minor malfeasance while his partner, Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), tries to push the pair into seeing some real cop action.
Therefore, the film is a slapstick buddy cop satire as the unlikely duo try, and generally fail, to be tough, serious cops in the midst of an important investigation. Some of the gags work fairly well. The Jackson/Johnson duo embrace the utter absurdity of the typical buddy cop film in what are some of the film’s better jokes, but they are quickly shuffled away to make room for Ferrell’s awkwardness.
There certainly are some funny moments between Ferrell and Wahlberg, but they don’t have the comedic chemistry to make the jokes pop. A lot of scenes play out as if the actors are ignoring each other, the tempo never completely gels and most of the great gags come from outside their interactions. When one of the best jokes in the film is a line by a side character, it’s time for a rewrite.
Another huge problem for the film is that it tends to dwell on jokes that weren’t funny the first time. If it doesn’t hit, keeping the gag rolling simply makes the film even more unfunny and unpleasant to watch. Ferrell in general has this problem as a comedian. He’ll drag something out to the point of it being uncomfortably unfunny, almost making you wonder how you found it slightly amusing moments before.
Most of the solid jokes come from absurd character moments, such as when the Ferrell character recounts the dark secret to his past, which the film ramps up to the right amount of absurdity. Likewise, Wahlberg’s character attempts to win back his girlfriend, which leads to some completely unexpected and totally hilarious gags. Step aside Portman, you’ve got nothing on Wahlberg’s ballet moves (and he does it in sneakers).
When those moments work, the film becomes surprisingly enjoyable, with some memorable comedic moments. Sure, it’s not of the caliber of jokes in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, it lacks the sharp wit and perfect timing, but there are enough jokes that hit often enough to make it an entertaining watch. It’s certainly not a comedy worth actively seeking out, there are far more smart, insightful and well-written comedies that surpass it, but it has its moments.
© 2011 James Blake Ewing