The fourth offering from the comedy team of Will Farrell (star) and Adam McKay (director, writer), The Other Guys doesn’t reach the zany heights of their earlier hits Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, but still gives Farrell plenty of opportunities for the inspired silliness and extended surreal bits that are his strengths.
Will Farrell plays Allen Gamble, a police forensic accountant with a hidden dark past, now partnered with Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), a disgraced detective who has been relegated to a desk job after making a catastrophic error.
The movie opens with the hot shots of the department, played with patented swagger and bombast by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, but when they unexpectedly leave the force, so to speak, Hoitz jumps at the chance to get back on real cases. The only hitch is that he has to convince the reluctant, conscientious and safety-loving Gamble to join him.
Meanwhile, Gamble’s painstaking forensic accounting and obsession with unpaid scaffolding permits has actually turned up a real case, a financier (Steve Coogan) about to pull off a $32 Billion heist. It’s classic bumbling cops versus cool, efficient and ruthless mastermind criminals with MBAs and meat-head body guards, but the sometimes creaky plot does its job—that is, set up lots of hilarity involving Priuses, hot Broadway shows, the pitfalls of hyperbole and more.
To paraphrase the anonymous theater critic who dissed Katharine Hepburn back in the day, Wahlberg plays the whole gamut of emotion from frustrated to pissed off, with generous shadings of incredulity and scorn. This is meant as a compliment. His wall of anger makes a good comic foil for Farrell’s freewheeling poetry of the bizarre and random riffs on everything from social consciousness to lions vs. tunas.
Farrell and Wahlberg receive great assist from their supporting cast, including Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans, Jr. as fellow policemen who relentlessly taunt Gamble and Hoitz, and Ray Stephenson (best known as Titus Pullo from HBO’s Rome) as an Australian heavy. There are also some fun party favors of celebrity cameos.
By far the best supporting actor, however, is Michael Keaton, flashing just a hint of his trademark demented quirkiness, as precinct Captain Gene. He plays the role with a relaxed off-handedness that steals every scene he’s in.
For a comedy The Other Guys looks an awful lot like an action movie, with explosions, kidnappings, shootings, special effects and dozens of vehicle crashes, and yet, somehow, the payoff feels less than the sum of the parts. But who’s adding?
From scene to scene, there’s plenty to laugh at, and the set pieces and shaggy parts are welcome diversions from the plot, which can bog down. It’s a big, expensive movie that occasionally sputters out of funny. But it still makes for a very entertaining ride.