×

The Other Guys

Laughs ultimately take a backseat to a convoluted white-collar crime story in Adam McKay's bromance.

With:
Allen Gamble - Will Ferrell Terry Hoitz - Mark Wahlberg Dr. Sheila Gamble - Eva Mendes Capt. Gene Mauch - Michael Keaton David Ershon - Steve Coogan Roger Wesley - Ray Stevenson P.K. Highsmith - Samuel L. Jackson Christopher Danson - Dwayne Johnson

After a season of coed action comedies ranging from “Date Night” to “Knight and Day,” it figures Adam McKay would be the one to bring back the bromance, milking the testosterone-fueled buddy-cop genre for touchy-feely fun in “The Other Guys.” Starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as two paper pushers who’d surely be sidelined in a traditional policer, pic sets out with more of a plot than such previous McKay comedies as “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights.” That should push B.O. further, but it also becomes the film’s undoing, as the laughs ultimately take a backseat to a convoluted white-collar crime story.

In keeping with previous Ferrell showcases, “The Other Guys” identifies a character who could easily support a series of “Saturday Night Live” sketches — in this case, milquetoast police accountant Allen Gamble (Ferrell), whose perky posture and contented smile reveal the intense satisfaction he takes from being a team player, even if the closest he comes to the action is typing up case reports for star cops Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson).

Popular on Variety

We’ve seen variations on this too-naive-to-know-better routine from Ferrell before, which makes Wahlberg the pic’s casting coup. As Terry Hoitz, Wahlberg plays a screw-up who’d give anything to be the sort of tough-guy hero the actor usually plays (where other pics have exploited Wahlberg’s abs, “The Other Guys” goes out of its way to make it look as if he gets by on an all-doughnut diet). Hoitz would probably be in the field, too, if it weren’t for a trigger-happy accident at a Yankees game.

Hoitz sees his chance after a particularly overzealous stunt by Highsmith and Danson puts the spotlight-hogging cops out of commission, with the desk jockey dragging his Prius-driving, wooden gun-wielding partner Gamble into the fray. The pair hardly get along at first, but the film doesn’t exploit their differences for long, preferring to concentrate on the mushier notion that their relationship matters. Yes, there’s a case to be solved, but Gamble’s real mission, as he tells hot-headed Hoitz, is “to climb over that anger wall of yours.”

Just when things should be getting interesting, their captain (Michael Keaton, playing babysitter to a department of overgrown kids rounded out by Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr.) separates the two. Putting more stock in their relationship than we do, the pic serves up a mopey montage of the partners trying to make do without each other — an uneven sequence that plays like something out of a romantic comedy.

Luckily, the two leads have a special kind of chemistry. With a few flamboyant exceptions (such as Hoitz insisting, “I’m a peacock. You gotta let me fly!”), Wahlberg is tasked with playing it straight, while Ferrell is free to improvise at will. There’s more room for such comic latitude early in the film — including a rowdy run-in with Gamble’s ex-girlfriend (Natalie Zea) and her emasculated new beau (Brett Gelman) — but once the plot kicks in, there’s less opportunity for wayward jokes, leaving the movie conspicuously less funny in the process.

Watching Hoitz and Gamble butt heads, there’s little doubt a perfectly entertaining movie could be made without leaving the office, but these characters are clearly not alone in their craving for some action. In a field dominated by Michael Bay types, McKay qualifies as one of “the other guys,” a director more given to orchestrating punchlines than pyrotechnics. Here, he understandably seizes the opportunity to blow stuff up, although it would be more accurate to say the opportunity overtakes him, as the laugh-a-minute pace established in the first act downshifts into something more akin to a standard ’80s buddy-cop movie (a la “Lethal Weapon” or “48 Hrs.”) once the procedural elements take hold.

McKay and co-writer Chris Henchy may have set out to make a satire of such pics, riffing on everything from the occasional ruminative saxophone solo to the obligatory character-grounding domestic scenes (in a recurring joke, Eva Mendes plays Gamble’s impossibly hot wife). But the result could pass for one of those films, assuming you can get past the tongue-in-cheek approach to every setpiece.

McKay is obviously having a blast staging explosions, chases and even an epic Mexican standoff (backed by “Bourne” producer Patrick Crowley and an all-pro crew, the action looks aces); a pity that the pic bogs down in an unnecessarily complicated evil-investor plot. It was a clever choice to make the villain a slimy Wall Street racketeer (Steve Coogan), giving the film a chance to lob a few timely critiques at our current financial predicament. But that theme feels only half-baked (awkwardly resurfacing as a PowerPoint-style economics lesson over the end credits), while the mystery effectively forces Hoitz and Gamble into the shoes of competent cops, more or less defusing the underlying beta-male concept that some guys simply weren’t born to lead.

The Other Guys

Production: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation of a Gary Sanchez/Mosaic production. Produced by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller, Patrick Crowley. Executive producers, David Householter, Chris Henchy, Kevin Messick. Co-producers, Josh Church, Jessica Elbaum. Directed by Adam McKay. Screenplay, McKay, Chris Henchy.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Oliver Wood; editor, Brent White; music, Jon Brion; music supervisor, Erica Weis; production designer, Clayton Hartley; art director, Jim Gloster; set decorator, George Detitta Jr.; costume designer, Carol Ramsey; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Tom Nelson; supervising sound editor, George Anderson; re-recording mixers, Scott Millan, Michael Keller; special effects supervisors, Mark Hawker, Danny Cangemi; special effects coordinator, Jeff Brink; visual effects supervisors, Gregor Lakner, Matt McDonald, Jim Rider; visual effects, Evil Eye Pictures, Rhino, Crater Studio, Goat Visual Effects; stunt coordinator, Brad Martin; associate producers, Rizelle Mendoza, William M. Connor; assistant director, William H. Connor; second unit director, Conrad E. Palmisano; casting, Allison Jones. Reviewed at AMC Century City, Los Angeles, July 29, 2010. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 107 MIN.

With: Allen Gamble - Will Ferrell Terry Hoitz - Mark Wahlberg Dr. Sheila Gamble - Eva Mendes Capt. Gene Mauch - Michael Keaton David Ershon - Steve Coogan Roger Wesley - Ray Stevenson P.K. Highsmith - Samuel L. Jackson Christopher Danson - Dwayne JohnsonWith: Lindsay Sloane, Natalie Zea, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr., Brett Gelman.

More Film

  • Dev Patel Toronto International Film Festival

    Film News Roundup: Dev Patel to Star in 'Flash Crash' Financial Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Dev Patel will portray a market whiz in a “Flash Crash” movie, the late Marty Sklar is honored at UCLA, “The Conversation” is getting a re-release and Ellen Page’s documentary gets a trailer. PROJECT LAUNCH Dev Patel will star in the adaptation of “Flash Crash: A Trading Savant, a Global [...]

  • Police guard the scenery in front

    Mass Shooting in Germany Raises Security Concerns for Berlin Film Festival

    A mass shooting in the West German city of Hanau has raised security concerns for the Berlin Film Festival, which kicks off on Thursday. Local media reports late Wednesday indicate that several people are dead following a shooting. Eight people are believed to have been killed while five others are injured. An unknown assailant is [...]

  • Foto: ©2019 TOM TRAMBOWProjekt: „Lassie Come

    Global Screen Sells 'Lassie Come Home' to More Than 44 Countries (EXCLUSIVE)

    Munich-based world sales company Global Screen has pre-sold the new adaptation of Eric Knight novel’s “Lassie Come Home,” whose canine character was first brought to the big screen more than 75 years ago, to more than 44 countries. Territories include Italy (Lucky Red), France (Mediawan Rights), Scandinavia (Angel Scandinavia), Israel (Film House), CIS (Volga Film), [...]

  • Paramount Players

    Paramount Players Loses Executives Matt Dines, Ali Bell

    Paramount Players has lost two of its executives, with Matt Dines and Ali Bell leaving their posts as executive vice presidents of development and production. A spokesman for Paramount told Variety that there are no plans to shutter the three-year-old division in the wake of the departures. Wyck Godfrey, Paramount’s motion pictures group president, remains [...]

  • Anya Taylor Joy Emma Premiere

    Anya Taylor-Joy on Playing Jane Austen's Clever, Callous Protagonist in 'Emma'

    It was an evening of elegance at the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features’ “Emma” on Tuesday night. The red carpet was lined with pastel floral arrangements at the DGA Theater, priming visitors to be transported to the ornate pageantry of Georgian-era England, as depicted in this new adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic tale. Anya [...]

  • Tom Holland Chris Pratt Onward Premiere

    Tom Holland and Chris Pratt Show Off Real-Life Bond at Pixar's 'Onward' Premiere

    Pixar’s new movie “Onward” marks a reunion of sorts for Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. The two actors, who both have ties to Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and most recently teamed in “Avengers: Endgame” as Spider-Man and Star-Lord, play brothers in the animated fantasy adventure. Their friendship has become a highlight of “Onward’s” promotional tour [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content