The Other Guys does so many things right that I don’t even know where to start. I definitely don’t intend to go into much detail on this one, because to talk too much about the movie would be to ruin at least a couple of its best jokes, and only an asshole would do that to you. Just make sure that you get out to see this movie right away, so that all of the insanely quotable jokes don’t get ruined for you before you get around to it. The Other Guys is ridiculously hilarious, and we’re talking about the work of a team who previously brought us Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are now four for four. That’s one hell of a batting average.
Anchorman is beyond a doubt one of the greatest comedies of the past decade, melding surreal absurdity with a high-concept period piece as it does. Talladega Nights is an amazing example of slipping brilliant satire right past the people who are being lampooned. Step Brothers is a bizarre family saga in minimum, comedy pared down to the essentials. With The Other Guys, Ferrell and McKay do up the buddy-cop action-comedy, and they do it up right. Somewhere in New Jersey, Kevin Smith weeps, because this is the glorious opposite of Cop Out. The Other Guys is immediately one of the all-time great buddy-cop action-comedies. I’m the guy who’s seen Beverly Hills Cop more times than Justin Timberlake has seen Mermaids, so I have no problem making this pronouncement. I loved The Other Guys the second that a car is driven right into the lobby of Trump Tower as a completely unnecessary and thrilling fuck-you explosion, and that happened around minute two.
Will Ferrell plays Allen Gamble and Mark Wahlberg plays Terry Hoitz. These guys aren’t the badass super-cops who walk away from explosions in slow-motion. Those guys are Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, who have a blast sending up cop-movie superheroics. Ferrell and Wahlberg are just the guys who sit at a desk in the same precinct. Ferrell’s character is a dull pencil-pusher (or appears to be) and Wahlberg’s character was once a promising up-and-comer before he did something that you must never do if you want to be loved in New York. (Don’t let anyone ruin this joke for you either.) At the start of The Other Guys, Wahlberg hates Ferrell. He wants to get out there and kick some ass, but Ferrell loves the desk work. This means that you get a bunch of scenes of Mark Wahlberg screaming at a straight-faced Will Ferrell, which is already comic gold. Throw in the much-missed Michael Keaton (experiencing a big-screen renaissance between this and Toy Story 3) as their beleaguered but affectionate captain, not to mention a clutch Bobby Cannavale as a brutish co-worker, and you have a great workplace comedy even before the cop plot kicks in.
Once it does, the movie really takes off. The main crime of the movie is a little bit convoluted, involving as it does a somewhat subdued Steve Coogan and a thanklessly grim Ray Stevenson, but there is a real profound satirical point to be made here, as the can’t-miss end credits confirm. It’s kind of amazing and impressive that McKay and Ferrell bother to fold a sneaky social comment inside a brilliant huge-budget comedy where almost no other modern filmmaker would be bold enough, but the less said about that beforehand, the better. Besides, it’s hard to notice much else when Ferrell and Wahlberg are wreaking comedic havoc across Manhattan in their single-minded pursuit of crime and corruption. There’s something inspired about the pairing; Ferrell downplaying uncharacteristically, diverging from his usual assortment of bloviating big-egos to play a more mild-mannered guy (with a dark side), while Wahlberg shouts around him, doing his typical earnest tough guy thing but amped to a level where you can’t quite tell if he’s in on the joke or not (although I’m guessing he is). It’s great.
Special mention to my beloved Eva Mendes, as Ferrell’s improbably smoking-hot doctor/ex-Laker-girl wife, delivering big-time on the underrated comic promise that she showed early on in Stuck On You. A great guy-centric comedy can only benefit from a solid, game female presence, as comedies such as Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Anchorman have proved time and again, and that’s what Eva brings to the table. She plays this unshakable, almost naïve positivity that flies in the face of her superhuman hotness, and it’s totally charming and completely hilarious. (Wahlberg’s muttered incredulity at the marriage is all by itself worth the trip to the theater.)
Ferrell and McKay deserve a huge success with this movie. These guys are now running entire cities, the way Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and co. did in their heyday. The Other Guys is astoundingly funny – I laughed my ass off all the way through, and I’m talking deep, loud, uncontrolled laughs straight from the gut that should have made me embarrassed in a theater packed with people except I couldn’t stop myself and it wasn’t like the movie was going to stop being hilarious long enough to cut me a break. I might even prefer this one to Anchorman, although I’ll have to go back a few times to see. This genre is totally in my wheelhouse, more than most, and these guys totally nail it, in an instant-classic kind of way. Again, I could talk about this movie all day, but what I’d really rather do is to see it again, right now if possible, and even more than that I’d love to encourage all of you reading this to go see it, right now if possible. You will love this movie. There is no doubt.