Monday, May 30, 2011

The Other Guys - 2010

"The Other Guys" - 2010
Dir. by Adam McKay - 1 hr. 47 min.

Official Trailer

Every time I go see a Will Ferrell movie, I want it to be the funniest thing I've ever seen.  Usually, when I'm done watching it for the first time, I feel a little let down.  I guess the problem is that I'm judging each new movie against "Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgandy" or "Talledega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby," which is clearly unfair.  Looking at that last sentence, I should probably not anticipate any of his films without a colon in the title.  Punctuate, Will, punctuate!

'The Other Guys" ought to be great - it's got Will Ferrell working with director Adam McKay again, it's got a great cast (Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton all have supporting roles), and it's got Mark Wahlberg doing what he does best (getting confused and yelling at things right before he knocks something over).  It's got a timely subject (corporate financial shenanigans), too.  But for some reason, when I watched it when it came out, I was a little let down.  Oh, I laughed and had a good time, but it felt like a ground-rule double instead of a home-run.

So, what I'm saying is that this is not a great comedy.  It's pretty damned good, and a lot of stuff works, but it doesn't click in the same way that "Anchorman" or "Ricky Bobby" did.  Even on a second viewing, I still laughed a lot.  It's fun watching Will Ferrell play his version of a straight man (Wahlberg's constant blowing up at every situation was the wild card, and it's more fun to watch that in a comedy than in a drama).  The stuff with Jackson and Johnson is great, it completely takes the piss out of loose cannon, hot-shot, attention-hog cops.  Even the more outrageous moments work because they come from the personalities of the characters (the "deskpop," Ferrell and Eva Mendes' rendezvous towards the end of the film, Wahlberg's character having learned how to dance ballet sarcastically to make fun of someone else who had actually learned how to, Michael Keaton's character's verbal tic and his constant denial of it).  It all works really well, and is funny throughout.

So what's the problem here?  And why am I nitpicking a movie that I did like?  Second question first, please. Often times, movies that don't quite come together are more interesting to write about, if you can find the seams.  Great movies don't give you the chance to look for the seams, if they're there at all.  And the seam here is that I wanted more from this movie.  I know I'm being unfair, but I felt the same way after I'd watched McKay and Ferrell's previous movie, "Step Brothers," but absolutely did not feel that way after watching their previous two movies.  As for the first question, it could be as simple as the fact that there is no love story sub-plot.  Yes, it's a standard issue plot device, and yes, I'm flogging myself for suggesting something so pedestrian.  The scenes with Mendes and Ferrell are super-funny (she's much funnier than I was expecting), but part of the reason that love story sub-plots work is that it gives a viewer the chance to see not only something positive in the characters, but allows you to fall in love with the characters a little bit yourself.

Without that emotional entry-point, the filmmaker has to find an alternate way to get a viewer emotionally invested in what they're watching.  What we're left with here is Wahlberg stalking his ex (and drooling over Mendes), and Ferrell verbally abusing his wife (albeit in a really funny way, but still...).  It's not even a question of likability, it's just a matter of where the hell am I supposed to be engaged here?  I'm not even really suggesting a love sub-plot, it's an issue of having a story where I don't have any real reason to root for these guys personally.  The material is so good and the actors so funny that it still adds up to a good film, but I think this is the seam that's showing: the failure of the filmmaker to fully engage the audience along the way.

But I still liked it, anyways.

3.5 / 5 - NF Streaming

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