Good “Guys” Provides Summer Laughs
By Roxana Hadadi
This summer has been yearning for a good comedy. “Toy Story 3” warmed our hearts, “Inception” pleasantly confused us and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” frustrated anyone who wasn’t a lovestruck 14-year-old girl. But finally, with “The Other Guys,” we have something to laugh about.
At first glance, the action-comedy looks promising enough: Will Ferrell, who hasn’t starred in anything legitimately hilarious since 2008’s “Step Brothers,” is directed by frequent collaborator Adam McKay, who also helmed Ferrell-starring flicks like 2004’s “Anchorman” and 2006’s “Talladega Nights.” But the secret here is Mark Wahlberg, who uses his tough-guy persona to his best advantage to work off Ferrell; together, the two provide an unexpected chemistry that helps “The Other Guys” deliver both laughs and a subtly serious message about the billionaires running (and ruining) our economy.
The film begins by introducing us not to those cops, though, but to star detectives Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson), who jump from car to car, drive through a double-decker bus, commandeer said bus to continue tracking the drug-dealers they were chasing to begin with and end up driving into Trump Tower, causing a huge explosion that rattles the city block. Though the chase costs New York City $12 million, Highsmith and Danson are regarded as heroes by the media and the city’s citizens – and, when they get back to the police station, their fellow cops heap praise on them, too.
Well, not everyone is amazed: Detective Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg), who is paired with paperwork-loving forensic accountant Allen Gamble (Ferrell), is more than annoyed by how much Highsmith and Danson are praised for their ability to blow stuff up and sleep with women. In fact, everything makes Hoitz angry – he yells about the company picnic, he yells about Gamble’s tendency to hum and sing while doing his work, he yells about the disrespect he gets from other coworkers. But after Hoitz shot Derek Jeter, what does he expect? The whole city knows who is – and hates him for it.
So because Hoitz and Gamble are so ostracized from the other cops, they inevitably get shunted to the side once more when a ridiculously stupid tragedy claims Highsmith’s and Danson’s lives, leaving an opening for another pair of determined cops to step into their shoes. But Hoitz, who has suffered for six months after shooting Jeter, refuses to stay in the shadows. Instead, he urges Gamble to unleash his inner wild side – and the two stumble into a cover-up involving famous billionaire David Ershon (Steve Coogan), who is known internationally for his investing genius.
Convinced that Ershon is caught up in a scandal regarding $32 billion that may be stolen from New York City’s lottery to help cover Ershon’s debts, Hoitz and Gamble must figure out a way to prove it – even though everyone, from Police Capt. Gene Mauch (Michael Keaton) to Australian baddie Roger Wesley (Ray Stevenson), who is working for one of the companies that lost money because of Ershon, is toiling against them. Nevertheless, the two have to team up – and, on Hoitz’s part, learn to tolerate each other – in order to save the city billions and prove their worth as cops.
The film, with all its talk of the country’s financial issues and misplaced faith in get-rich-quick schemes, will obviously go over the head of children and younger teens, but older teens (or at least their parents) will certainly understand and enjoy the flick’s timeliness. “The Other Guys” is firmly rooted in reality, with nods toward tensions in the Yankees (“You shoulda shot A-Rod,” suggests a fellow cop during one of Hoitz’s therapy sessions) and the government’s mismanagement of recent financial crises (“Enron, AIG, Madoff, Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers,” deadpans Gamble when confronting a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission about all the problems they’ve missed).
That realism, coupled with Ferrell’s usual absurdity and Wahlberg’s wild-eyed aggression, helps make everything gel. Ferrell is at his best when he transitions from a dopey desk cop to Gator, a college moniker that matched his unleashed personality back then, and Wahlberg similarly succeeds when he either plays against type, such as performing a dazzling array of ballet steps, or loosens up, like when he can’t get over the fact that Ferrell’s character is married to gorgeous doctor Sheila (Eva Mendes). His incredulous “Seriously, who is that?” perfectly matches the audience’s reaction, making the film more than a little self-aware.
But this is a Ferrell flick, so expect a lot of questionable material – like cursing, dirty jokes, potty humor, drug references, graphic descriptions of sexual activities, implied sex scenes and drug use and lots of violence, though none of it gory – thrown in for laughs. Nevertheless, the humor coats a semi-serious message about the people we trust with our money, and if you pay close attention, you’ll appreciate a film that trusts its audiences enough to tell them the truth. And though the numerous graphics during the credits that detail how much the heads of those failed financial services firms make when compared to the average American will probably depress you, stick around for a secret scene at the very end – after all, “The Other Guys” is at its best when its making you laugh.
Roxana Hadadi last reviewed “Charlie St. Cloud.”
Also out this week: Our review of “Step Up 3.”