The Review: Another year, another Will Ferrell comedy. The best of these have been his collaborations with director Adam McKay, although I say that with reservations. Anchorman remains, in this reviewer’s opinion at least, one of the most consistent and funniest comedies of the Noughties, Talladega Nights was great, but Step Brothers was resolutely average, and most of Ferrell’s other comedies in the last few years have been patchy at best. Part of the problem here is over-exposure; Ferrell used up most of his supply of funny man-child shouting idiocy in Anchorman, and ever since the subtle variations on the character have worn increasingly thin.
Much of the enjoyment has come from the supporting characters in these movies, and The Other Guys certainly doesn’t skimp on the other talent. Sharing top billing this time is Mark Wahlberg, who doesn’t have much of a track record as far as comedy is concerned (as long as you exclude the unintentional hilarity of The Happening), but in the same way as John C. Reilly in Talladega Nights, his interplay with Ferrell is one of the highlights and the two form an uneasy partnership that allows both to have moments to shine. Samuel L. Jackson and Duane Johnson are an all too brief highlight at the beginning, and Michael Keaton reminds us why he was so great in the comedies of yesteryear, but on this occasion too few others make an impression.
In terms of the plot itself, there is a curious mix of the slightly serious (Steve Coogan plays a Bernie Madoff-style character almost straight) and the outlandishly humourous (the movie is littered with sub-plots, such as the use of Ferrell’s character’s Prius as a hang-out spot for homeless guys), and takes an awfully long time to feel as if it’s heading anywhere interesting. Not a problem for previous Ferrell / Mckay movies, but there’s more plot attempted here and McKay suggests attempts at more narrative thrust than in previous efforts but somehow allows things to meander a little too much.
The big question, of course, is “Is it funny?”, and the answer is, “To a point.” Wahlberg is great, especially in his reactions to Ferrell’s unlikely wife (Eva Mendes), Ferrell is a little more dialled-down than in his last couple which kind of works, there’s a few cracking set pieces and the way in which our heroes slowly rise to prominence does generate laughs along the way, but there’s few standout moments that are the equivalent of the earlier efforts by Ferrell and McKay, and some of the jokes (Keaton’s inexplicable TLC references) are stretched rather too thin, having not been that funny in the first place. In an odd way, it almost works better as a Lethal Weapon 3-style buddy action comedy, with the emphasis on the action rather than the comedy, but there a feeling of missed opportunity here. Shame.
Why see it at the cinema: McKay actually does at least a comparable job of shooting action as most of this year’s major action movies, so those scenes alone deserve a big screen viewing, and there are a few big belly laughs to share. If you like your statistics, then the end credits will also be worth seeing, as The Other Guys turns into a bizarrely serious Michael Moore film once the names start to roll.
The Score: 6/10