Oh, how tired and insignificant the buddy cop comedy has become of late.
Duds such as this year’s “Cop Out” with Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis are now the sorry norm in a lackluster genre that lazily fires off empty rounds of clichés and dumb action humor.
Hollywood, it’s high time you wise up and quit committing the same crime over and over again.
To the rescue – mostly – come director and co-writer Adam McKay and funny-man Will Ferrell. That they revive a relatively DOA genre shouldn’t be a shocker given their track record together – from “Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” to, to a lesser extent, last year’s “Step Brothers” with co-star John C. Reilly.
Although “The Other Guys” isn’t their personal best (a spot I reserve for the hysterical “Talladega Nights”), it’s a pleasing addition to the duo’s silly oeuvre.
If you’re seeking an inspired new take on the buddy-cop genre, though, you’re in for a crushing disappointment: “Other Guys” is all about the spoof and goof, a framework that allows an ace comedic cast to joust with an arsenal of jokes in the same parodic vein as the “Airplane” and “Austin Powers” movies. Funny this movie is, revolutionary it isn’t.
That McKay, Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg nail the chuckles – the film only occasionally bolts into belly-laugh territory; roughly 80 percent of the time – is reason enough to get you into the theater.
The classic setup pairs two wholly mismatched New York detectives who bumble their way into investigating an overly complex crime that tangles up Wall Street and an embezzling billionaire (Steve Coogan of “Tropic Thunder”) who’s out to bilk the lottery.
Ferrell plays uptight paper pusher Allen Gamble, a geek with a hot wife (a sexy Eva Mendes) and a red Prius that has six, count ’em, Little River Band CDs in its player (now that’s funny). He teams up with hot-headed Terry Horitz (Wahlberg of “The Departed”), a loser in love and, especially, in law enforcement after he accidentally shoots New York Yankees slugger Derek Jeter (that’s even funnier).
When two hot-shot celeb cops (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) meet an unfortunate demise, other detectives swarm to assume their camera-mugging mantle. This development keeps Capt. Mauch (Michael Keaton, a welcome addition as the put-upon boss) barking orders and sparring with Gamble and Horitz whenever he’s not moonlighting for Bed Bath & Beyond.
As you can tell from the plot synopsis, “Guys” is all about the asides, not the narrative, as it strings together comedic vignettes, most of which hit the bull’s-eye. McKay and co-screenwriter Chris Henchy (“Land of the Lost” – oops!) clutter things with way too many complications and squealing chase scenes that only muffle the comic tempo.
None of this ever overshadows “Guys’” good nature, a credit to a fine cast, clever comic shtick and the surprisingly solid teaming of Wahlberg and Ferrell.
Going in to “Guys,” I had big doubts that the earnest Wahlberg would be a good foil to a heavy comedic hitter like Ferrell. But Wahlberg, who pokes fun at his own image, makes a fine springboard for Ferrell and shows good timing.
Yet this is Ferrell’s show through and through, as he successfully rinses away the aftertaste of last year’s “Land of the Lost.” Even the stuffiest filmgoer will find himself laughing when Ferrell taps into his character’s “dark” side. In fact, thinking about that scene as I write this makes me smile, a sure sign that “The Other Guys” earns its badge of comedic honor.
'THE OTHER GUYS'
*** 1/2 *
Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton
Director: Adam McKay
Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material)
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes