There has been quite a few humorous throwbacks to the 1980s/90s buddy cop genre lately, notably Edgar Wright’s “Hot Fuzz” and Kevin Smith’s “Cop Out”. So it’s kind of inevitable that this latest attempt to poke fun at this kind of movie by writer-director Adam McKay and funnyman Will Ferrell doesn’t feel all that fresh. It doesn’t help that, even though he has amusing ideas for over the top gunfights and car chases, McKay is clearly out of his element with the action scenes (admittedly, Smith was too, but Wright nailed them, which is one of the reasons “Hot Fuzz” remains by far the best of these films).
That being said, “The Other Guys” is still an effective comedy filled with hilarious vulgar outbursts, clever one-liners and wonderfully absurd non sequiturs. Ferrell stars as Allen Gamble, a NYPD detective who only ever does paperwork while the department’s super cops (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson in an amusing extended cameo) get to blow shit up and kill bad guys. This actually pleases the mild-mannered Gamble fine, but his partner Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) is getting mighty tired of sitting behind a desk. So when a chance comes up to hit the streets and work on a big case, Terry jumps on it, dragging Allen along for the ride…
The above summary probably sounds as generic and inconsequential as it gets, but that’s the point, I guess. The resolutely familiar Dorky Cop, Angry Cop dynamic is pretty much the backbone of the genre parodied here, and most of the beats of the story (police chief Michael Keaton taking our heroes off the case, the partners having a falling out then making up, etc.) are shopworn as well. It’s in the dialogue, the specifics of the situations and the tone of the performances that McKay’s movie gets goofy and offbeat, constantly sidestepping from the plot to go on some ridiculous tangents involving things like tuna waging a vendetta against lions, hobo orgies, Allen’s former life as Gator the pimp, the inexplicable hotness of this wife (Eva Mendes) and so on.
As such, “The Other Guys” is understandably rather sloppy, slapdash and uneven, feeling more like a series of skits than an actual film. One could have more or less said the same thing about the previous McKay/Ferrell collaborations (“Anchorman”, “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers”), but it seems to me like the plot increasingly seems to be an afterthought with every movie they make. Still, despite the numerous flaws I’ve written about, I gotta say that I laughed a lot while watching it, and isn’t this the most important thing a comedy needs to accomplish?