Will Ferrell made a name for himself playing in the movie industry by playing some crazy larger-than-life characters, such as Buddy the Elf and Ron Burgundy. Recently, he has been tarnishing that name by playing Will Ferrell, or at least how we have come to perceive Will Ferrell: a lazy, pathetic, and fairly eccentric bum. After a series of unintentionally humorless flops, it’s hard to have confidence that “The Other Guys” could end the slump.
The movie isn’t great, certainly nowhere near the likes of “Elf” or “Anchorman,” but it’s a definite improvement from “Step Brothers” and “Land of the Lost.” The story and the characters still aren’t quite back in full force, yet there’s some comfort in seeing the return of a crucial ingredient – laughter. Fairly often, a joke will fall flat or just not work quite right. But more often than not, they manage to work, and we laugh more than we wince.
This isn’t the movie to break Will Ferrell’s slump; however, it’s definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully the beginning of an upward trend. It definitely helps that he’s not playing some ridiculous moron but rather a regular Joe Schmoe moron, someone who might actually exist out there. While we’ve been there done that with Ferrell’s one-note comedy of bizarre characters, there’s something refreshing and, dare I say, exciting about watching him go off the beaten path for a while.
But there’s more to this movie than just reporting that Will Ferrell can be decent again. We can’t forget Mark Wahlberg, who plays a cop that is a complete polar opposite of his Staff Sgt. Dignam from “The Departed.” While he got to play the ultimate hard Boston police officer in the 2006 Best Picture winner, he’s tackling a decidedly different role as Holtz, the paper-pushing officer stuck working with Ferrell’s pitiful Gamble. Wahlberg has never been in a comedic movie before, yet it’s amazing how he blends right in as if we’ve been seeing him do these types of movies for years. I won’t go as far as to call he and Farrell a new “odd couple” (a new favorite critical comparison), but they certainly do play off each other well throughout the movie.
It’s the two marquee names that carry the movie. They don’t get any help from Eva Mendes, who plays Gamble’s smoking hot wife, or Steve Coogan, the Brit who plays the Wall Street scumbag who is meant to remind us of Bernie Madoff. Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, the Dignams so to speak of the movie, aren’t in the movie long enough to produce many laughs, and the ones that they do were ruined in the trailer. There are some nice running jokes with Michael Keaton, the police chief who moonlights at Bed Bath and Beyond, that wind up being funny after a few tries. But have no doubt about it – this is Mark Wahlberg’s movie and it is Will Ferrell’s movie, for better or for worse. B- /