Monday, August 9, 2010


“Saturday Night Live” comedian Will Ferrell has made a mint out of playing morons. He delivers another hilarious performance as a moronic New York Police Department detective in "Talladega Nights” director Adam McKay’s “The Other Guys,” (** out of ****) an ambitious but half-baked parody of slam-bang police thrillers. Oscar nominated actor Mark Wahlberg of “The Departed” co-stars as Ferrell’s pugnacious NYPD partner. Unfortunately, Wahlberg displays none of Ferrell’s comic genius. Indeed, nothing Wahlberg does registers as remotely amusing. He is either screaming at Ferrell or skewering his partner’s masculinity. Wahlberg appears to be channeling Joe Pesci from the Martin Scorsese classics “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” Alas, Wahlberg is no Pesci. The funniest thing next to Ferrell is the non-stop ridicule reserved for our hero’s red Prius. Incredibly, the car is far funnier than Wahlberg. McKay and “Land of the Lost” scenarist Chris Henchy struggle with little success to combine a formulaic buddy picture comedy with a complex white-collar crime conspiracy about a shady investment banker. Nevertheless, anything Ferrell does will keep you in stitches, but all Wahlberg’s scenes should have hit the editing room floor. Think of “The Other Guys” as a mediocre “Police Academy” knock-off with half of the laughs. Primarily, the humor grows out of the irony that two pencil-pushing desk jockeys wind up replacing two loose-cannon celebrity crime busters as the top cops in the Big Apple. The stunt work is terrific. The opening gag where a heroic pair of testosterone-driven cops smash their sports car through a double-decker bus to arrest two shooters for a misdemeanor amount of narcotics is impressive. Again, McKay and Henchy make some poor narrative choices. First, they kill off the two most charismatic characters, Highsmith and Danson, in the first quarter hour. Second, they replace them with two colorless morons. Our heroes qualify as genuine underdogs. Third, McKay and Henchy never provide a solid, colorful villain. The villainous chores are split between a the harmless investment banker and an antagonist Australian troubleshooter. You cannot spoof a genre, like crime movies, unless you follow the dictates of the genre. Since there is no central villain, our heroes have it pretty easy. The closest character to a villain turns out to be their own police captain. Mind you, "The Other Guys" isn't even an adequate parody. Some of the jokes on the side shine, like Dirty Mike and his homeless crew that have an orgy in our hero's car.

NYPD Detectives P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson of “Pulp Fiction”) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson of “The Tooth Fairy”) are a macho pair of “Lethal Weapon” cops who refuse to let details complicate their roguish antics. Although they make spectacular arrests, they also create equally spectacular property damage. Nevertheless, everybody loves them so they can flout the rules without fear of repercussion. As “The Other Guys” opens, Highsmith and Danson are chasing a gang armed with assault weapons. Danson has gotten atop their Escalade, but he isn’t there long after they shoot up the roof. Danson dives back onto Highsmith’s car, rolls off the hood onto the roof, and swings into the front seat. The villains blast Highsmith’s car so the hood folds back against the windshield and blinds them. Highsmith shoots off the hood hinge. Too late! He plows into a double-decker bus as the villains appear to get away. Danson commandeers the double-decker bus with Highsmith’s car still stuck in it. Danson careens after the hoods, whips the double-decker around, launching Highsmith’s car with Highsmith blasting away with two pistols at the hoods. Highsmith takes them down, shoots the gas tank of their Escalade, and soars over the explosion, crashing into the building. After Highsmith and Danson receive their medals, Precinct Captain Gene Mauch (Michael Keaton of “Batman”) calls on somebody to complete their paper work. These two cops have never wasted their time with paperwork. Detective Allen Gamble snaps at the opportunity to complete the Highsmith and Danson paperwork. Not long afterward, Highsmith and Danson leap to their deaths when they try to thwart a team of acrobats who wield a wrecking ball to smash their way into a jewelry store and heist $79-thousand in stones.

A milquetoast forensic accountant who prefers to file paperwork, Gamble (Will Ferrell of “Old School”) likes to hum the S.W.A.T. theme and stay in the precinct office rather than nab the bad guys on the streets. His idea of busting loose is to floor the gas pedal of his Prius and play the Little River Band. Allen’s partner, Detective Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg of “Date Night”), is just the opposite. Terry dreams of making the big bust. He suspects drug deals behind every crime. Sadly, Terry has been confined to a desk and stuck with Allen. The skeleton in Terry’s closet is he accidentally shot New York Yankees baseball slugger Derek Jeter in the leg during the seventh game of the World Series. Yes, the Yankees lost! Everybody in the precinct now calls Terry ‘the Yankee Clipper.’ Naturally, Terry hates Allen, but he lives by the venerable “partner’s code,” a police maxim that requires a partner to back up his partner no matter what the circumstance. Ironically, Allen’s obsession with paper work prompts them to arrest British investment banker Sir David Ershon (Steve Coogan of “Tropic Thunder”) who is up to his neck in a grand scheme to steal $32-billion from the NYPD Pension Fund to cover the loses of another Wall Street titan.

The best scene between Ferrell and Wahlberg is the lion-versus-the-tuna tale. Terry tells Allen that he would rip him to shreds as easily as a lion could a tuna. Terry destroys the lack of logic in Terry’s example with own flawed logic. He claims that the tuna would construct an oxygen apparatus to allow them to live out of water so they could stalk and attack lions on dry land. The running joke throughout “The Other Guys” is that nerdy Allen is a babe magnet. Sexy chicks come on to him but ignore Terry. At one point, Allen and Terry have to interview one of Allen’s old girlfriends to get message that was ghost-messaged from Allen’s cell phone to her cell phone. Again, Terry is flabbergasted by Allen’s sexy ex-girlfriend. Terry is floored when he finally meets Allen’s hot chick wife, Dr. Shelia Gamble (Eva Mendez of “Training Day”), who is crazy about her husband. Allen and Shelia met while he was in college acting as a pimp for some of his girlfriends. Allen assured Terry that his pimping days were dark days indeed because he became a different person nicknamed ‘Gator.’ “The Other Guys” swerves erratically between scenes of Allen and Terry bonding to the chaos that they create when they arrest Ershon. The “Grand Theft Auto” chases, the blazing gunfights, and the audacious wrecking ball jewelry heist accent look cool but these scenes seem out of place in a screwy buddy comedy. Ultimately, the PG-13 rated "Other Guys” runs out of momentum and laughs long before it runs out of plot.

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