REVIEW: Other Guys Leaps to the Head of the Summer Comedy Class

Movieline Score: 8

otherguys_rev_2.jpgAdam McKay's comedy The Other Guys has a lot going for it: Even though it mines perennial cop-buddy-movie material, it doesn't feel generic or strained, and unlike other recent comedies -- Dinner for Schmucks pops to mind -- it never descends into grating self-consciousness. Forget impressing us with its cleverness; it's happy to seduce us with its dumbness, and when McKay and his performers -- chief among them Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Eva Mendes -- dangle that shiny lure, damn it if it doesn't work at least half the time.

But The Other Guys isn't easy to peg. It's not a comedy that loosens you up and mellows you out; it works by needling you progressively into a state of anxiety. I walked out of the thing with my nerves humming. Part of that has to do with the chemistry between its two stars, Ferrell and Wahlberg. They're an uneasy yet inspired match: Ferrell is Allen Gamble, the most timid New York City cop imaginable (he was transferred over from forensics accounting), who's happy to sit at his desk whenever an urgent call comes in over the radio. His partner, Wahlberg's Terry Hoitz, is a thundercloud with a badge who can't wait to get out there and prove his stuff. The problem is, he's already proved it: A hothead with a gun, he gained renown in the force after shooting Derek Jeter by mistake. (Jeter himself appears in a tiny, amusing cameo.)

At headquarters, Alan and Terry sit opposite one another -- Alan tapping away at his computer, Terry perpetually tapping his leg. Alan annoys his officemate first by absent-mindedly humming the theme from S.W.A.T., then moving on to I Dream of Jeannie. Terry responds to these happy-go-lucky tics by blowing up. He calls Alan a fake cop before progressing to even harsher, if inane, insults: "The sound of your piss hitting the urinal -- it sounds feminine to me!" he blurts out. He's cooped up in the office, and he hates it. "I am a peacock! You've gotta let me fly!" he tells the world, or at least the office.

The Other Guys opens with a parody of a generic bad-ass NYC cop drama, a destructive, explosive mess (one of the highlights involves a cop car driving straight into a double-decker tourist bus) which, if it happened in real life, would result in the deaths of dozens of citizens and law-enforcement officials. The heroes of this mini action extravaganza are Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson (their scenes are brief but fun), who of course emerge without a scratch. These are the cops everyone on the force wants to be; the "other guys," chiefly Allen and Terry, are left doing the paperwork, though they strive to prove their worth (at the more ambitious Terry's prodding) by pursuing a fatcat, possibly crooked capitalist played by Steve Coogan (whom Terry derisively addresses, at one point, as Andrew Lloyd Weber).

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