That being said, you can understand my initial reluctance and nagging trepidation as I walked into the theater and sat down to watch “The Other Guys,” a new cop drama starring the irrepressibly stultifying and obnoxiously vociferous Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.
“All right, Will,” I thought to myself as I settled into my seat anticipating a nice nap. “Go ahead and scream for 107 minutes so that I can get out of here.”
Now I’m not going to tell you that Ferrell completely refrained from his trademark obstreperousness in this film, but I will admit that he was bearable (Actually he was great.) and that the film was surprisingly funny and refreshingly entertaining. In fact, I think I might be able to sit through again without too much pain, and I never dreamed I would say that about a Will Ferrell movie.
“The Other Guys” is set in the Big Apple and centers on the proud men and women of the New York Police Department, where P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) are the stars of the show. These two hotshots have the reputation as being the roughest, toughest, bad asses in the city. They spend their days tracking down and corralling the nastiest criminals in New York, and they do it with spectacular car chases and acrobatic gunplay. They are the people’s heroes and the envy of all the other cops in the department.
Detective Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and his partner, Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg), however, are the complete opposites of Highsmith and Danson. Gamble is a desk cop in the truest sense of the word. He loves sitting and his desk and pecking away at his computer as he contentedly hums a happy little tune. He carries a gun that he has never shot, and he wants no part of patrolling the streets.
Hoitz occupies the desk across from Gamble, and he can’t understand why Gamble is so happy being chained to a work station. His incessant humming also drives Hoitz crazy. Hoitz has been relieved of street work because he accidentally shot Yankee superstar Derek Jeter, and he is dying to get out of the office. And then they uncover a case that could be the hottest thing in the city. What follows is their big chance to prove that they are every bit as adept at bringing a big case to its knees as are Highsmith and Danson.
This film succeeds beautifully as a comedy because Gamble and Hoitz are the very antithesis of the stereotypically macho New York police officer, and watching them bumble along on their way to bringing down a notorious Wall Street criminal (Steve Coogan) is both consistently entertaining and quite funny. In the film’s production notes, both Ferrell and Wahlberg offered an analysis of their respective characters.
“Gamble and Hoitz are not necessarily what you think of when you think of the heroes of buddy cop movies,” said Ferrell. “Gamble is a forensic accountant, a desk cop, the guy who never leaves the office, who’s very much into his paperwork. Hoitz is more of the streetwise guy who’s Jonesing to get out there and make a name for himself. Allen Gamble is a guy who loves — he actually relishes – paper work. Working on the computer and organization are police work for him. He’s an earnest, sweetheart type — a guy who plays it very close to the vest, a buttoned-down type of guy who shows up right on time for work and stays to the very last minute.”
“My character is obsessed with what he thinks is real crime: drug dealers, vice, murderers, and anything that’s going on in the street,” Wahlberg added. “Will’s character’s whole attitude and approach to police work is paperwork. That’s all it basically comes down to — paperwork and white-collar crime. But I’m stuck with him because of a mistake that I made.”
Ferrell and Wahlberg are absolutely terrific together, and they have the advantage of a script that contains plenty of clever repartee. Early on in the film, Hoitz is so frustrated with Gamble that he begins degrading him, and somehow the conversation becomes an argument about a conflict between a school of tuna and lion. Ferrell is nothing short of brilliant in this scene.
The film also is filled with great one-liners. For example, instead of driving an impressive police car, Gamble drives around in a little red Prius, and this prompts Hoitz to observe, “I feel like we’re literally driving around in a vagina.”
Another element of humor in the movie arises because of Gamble’s odd ability to attract the attention of hot women despite being such a milquetoast. Hoitz almost faints when he first meets Gamble’s wife, Sheila, portrayed with copious cleavage by Eva Mendes. And the relationship between Sheila and Gamble also offers plenty of laughs.
Finally, the extremely talented Michael Keaton also is on hand as the captain of the police force, who supplements his income working as a clerk for Bed Bath & Beyond. Need I say more?
“The Other Guys” (Give at a solid seven.) is a rare comedy that actually does what it is supposed to do – induce laughter. In fact, this film succeeds so well in its genre that I can actually envision a sequel, but the stars would have to be Ferrell and Wahlberg. It wouldn’t work with any other guys.