Like a lot of Will Ferrell’s movies, The Other Guys is both hit and miss. There are moments when a gag played just right or a genre cliche turned on its ear will elicit genuine belly laughs. But then there are the bits such as Michael Keaton’s police captain unknowingly quoting the lyrics of TLC songs, Ferrell’s past as a college pimp, or his relationship with wife Eva Mendes, that not only fall flat but bring the rest of the movie down a notch or two in the process.
What does work really well is the general set-up: a pair of cops who, in most movies, would be the stooges of the department while the movie follows the exploits of the precinct’s resident supercops. In The Other Guys, those supercops are played full-out and over-the-top by Sam Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and they get a few genuinely funny bits, even if their action sequence that opens the movie is really poorly-done green screen work. Ferrell is a paper-pusher and desk jockey, and Mark Wahlberg is his hobbled supercop-wannabe partner who longs to have a shot at solving real cases and seeing real action.
McKay has designed a comedic role that fits Wahlberg exceedingly well, and the fairly natural, if unlikely, chemistry between Wahlberg and Ferrell takes the movie a long way. So does the supporting cast, which also includes Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Anne Heche, and sketch vets like Rob Riggle and Rob Huebel. Huebel’s scene, in which he describes how a group of homeless guys defiled Ferrell’s stolen Prius with an all-male orgy, is one of those moments that completely kills and will have you on the floor laughing.
But nevertheless, for all of the moments that hit, there are plenty of moments that miss. And even though McKay may be much farther along as a director than the guys helming most of the Adam Sandler movies, and shows a certain amount of visual sense and flair, the action here is still middle-of-the-road. The script, while not as throwaway as it could have been, doesn’t create any really impressive set pieces or build to a truly memorable climax; this isn’t a film meant to add to the genre or redefine it, but simply a comedy intended to ape it well enough to fit in some funny gags. And to that extent, it succeeds often enough to be a fairly enjoyable distraction. Certainly not the most glowing recommendation, but much like the film, it is what it is.