If we begin a sentence with the phrase “Not since ‘Talladega Nights,’” it might not have the same weight as, say, “Not since ‘Citizen Kane’” or “Not since ‘The Godfather’” or whatever benchmark you choose.
But still. Not since “Talladega Nights” has Will Ferrell been as flat-out funny as he is in “The Other Guys,” and that is quite enough reason to celebrate. In the four years since “Talladega,” we’ve sat through “Step Brothers” and “Semi-Pro” and “Land of the Lost,” waiting for lightning to strike.
Then about 10 minutes into “The Other Guys,” Ferrell goes on a long, lunatic riff in which his character tries to prove a point about a lion battling a tuna, and you realize that our man is right back in the groove.
His somewhat unlikely foil in this scene and others is Mark Wahlberg, who plays Ferrell’s detective partner at a New York precinct. They’re the “other guys,” lost in the shadow of flashier cops (especially a pair of Bruckheimer-ready hotshots played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson).
The story takes them on a somewhat incomprehensible case involving a crooked financier (Steve Coogan) and various bad guys, but the most important thing is the convoluted patter between Ferrell and Wahlberg, who play the cliche ends of the usual cop-movie partners: Ferrell is a police accountant, reluctant to actually go on a case, and Wahlberg is a hothead constrained by the desk job.
There’s also material mined from Ferrell’s seeming indifference to the blatant hotness of his wife (Eva Mendes), a joke that ought to have a short shelf-life but, thanks to Wahlberg’s awestruck reactions, manages to pan out nicely.
Similarly, Ferrell’s Prius shouldn’t be a good running gag, but he and director Adam McKay find enough variations to make it work. McKay also directed “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” and he and Ferrell are securely in sync in this outing.
The parody of cop pictures extends to deliberately overblown action sequences and the requisite hard-boiled captain (Michael Keaton, carving out a few nice moments). There’s an especially good “how’d they do that?” moment involving Jackson and Johnson leaping off a skyscraper, which — as we’ve learned in recent action flicks — should cause no bodily harm to these supermen.
“The Other Guys” goes a little long and is pretty ragged in spots, but if you have a weakness for Will Ferrell’s deadpan shtick, it will satisfy. But beware the tuna that walks on land, even if you’re a lion.
“The Other Guys”
This is Will Ferrell back in the groove after a handful of duds partnered with Mark Wahlberg as a couple of NYC cops. Ferrell gets to cut loose with a string of flat-out funny moments. The film parodies cop movies to decent effect, but the real appeal is just letting the camera run as Ferrell riffs on a variety of subjects, with Wahlberg providing a good foil.
Rating: PG-13, for language, subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall.
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