by KYW’s Bill Wine
Will Ferrell lives here in the Land of Comedy. Mark Wahlberg may just be visiting, but he too looks right at home.
They’re the latest odd couple to surface on the movie landscape and they’re pretty darn funny in this buddy-cop action comedy, The Other Guys.
Why are they the title characters? Because it’s the other other guys, the macho ones, named Highsmith and Danson (played, respectively, by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) who in the eyes of the New York City public are the real heroic NYPD cops.
All Gamble and Hoitz can do is sit at their desks across the room and dot their i’s and cross their t’s and watch those two get all the glory.
Ferrell is Allen Gamble, a deskbound, paper-shuffling servant of the law (a forensic accountant, if you want to be specific) with a stunning wife, played by Eva Mendes, whom he seems to take very much for granted.
Wahlberg is Terry Hoitz, also stuck at a desk but pretty tough and wanting lots more street action. The problem is that he’s disgraced in the eyes of the local populace and his colleagues because he mistakenly shot Yankees superstar shortstop Derek Jeter, who shows up cameoing momentarily as himself.
Hoitz would, in fact, like to be the kind of tough guy that actor Wahlberg so often plays in movies.
Gamle and Hoitz are The B-Team (which would have been the title had the makers of “The A-Team” not objected), idolizing and envying and resenting Highsmith and Danson and wishing they could get the kind of assignments that would allow them to push around bad guys instead of pencils.
Then maybe they would be applauded when they entered the precinct office, maybe then they would attract groupies. Maybe then they would be the guys little kids imitated when they played cops and robbers on New York’s streets.
Then, because every dog has its day, these dogs get a chance to crack a big-time white-collar-crime case involving financial fraud, as they try to take down a Wall Street crook, a suspicious billionaire played by Steve Coogan.
Director Adam McKay (Step Brothers; Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy; Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), who co-wrote the plot-driven script with Chris Henchy, keeps things loose as he sends up the buddy-cop action genre, but he gets much heartier laughs in conversational scenes in the police station or at the dinner table than with anything he does out on the streets in terms of action-flick mechanics.
The seemingly obligatory chase and shoot-em-up sequences are proficiently handled, but they slow things down comedically anyway. In other words, the movie’s other guise, as an action thriller, is ho-hum at best.
And that includes the overdone climax, with yet another couple hundred bullets shot off that, improbably, don’t find their marks.
But McKay gives his film a pleasantly and pungently absurdist flavor throughout, which makes everything seem relatively fresh.
And what matters most is the Ferrell-Wahlberg teaming, which is great fun to watch develop.
Ferrell brings his prodigious improv skills to the party, and its’s obvious that director McKay, whom Ferrell has collaborated with on many of his previous projects all the way back to TV’s “Saturday Night Live,” let the cameras roll and gave his comedy star a lengthy leash.
So it’s up to Wahlberg to react realistically, and he does so ably: his deadpan and comic timing get the job done. All that energy he must be putting into keeping a straight face actually pays off.
Whether or not a new and viable comedy team has been created is yet to be determined. We don’t appear to be headed for Matthau-and-Lemmon or Abbott-and-Costello territory, but this first funny foray from Ferrell and Wahlberg results in a breezy entertainment with bursts of priceless bring-down-the-house hysteria.
So we’ll team up with 3 stars out of 4 for The Other Guys. Auditioning as a comedy team, Ferrell and Wahlberg exert their will, make their mark, and get their laughs.