“The Other Guys” resurrects the stale buddy cop comedy without trading in humor for cheap one-liners or misplaced gunshots for the sake of calling it action. While its predecessors had managed to beat all the fun out of the genre, “Guys” playfully hits all the right beats and never fails to entertain.
NYPD partners Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are desk jockeys, painfully overshadowed and mocked in the light of the adored, city’s finest, P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christoper Danson (Dwyane Johnson.)
Allen happily fills out their paperwork, preferring and basking in the safety of his desk, while Terry agonizes over his office position, anxious to get in the field and prove himself after a mishap with New York Yankee, Derek Jeter. As the contrary pair bicker over field and office, Gamble pursues a permit violation and stumbles into more than the mundane arrest he bargained for. As a result, the pair set out to crack the case and impress the Chief, (Michael Keaton) with the hopes that somewhere along the way they can prove themselves worthy of their detective badges.
This makes the fourth collaboration for Director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, and it might just be my favorite. While “Anchorman” and “Talledega Nights” have their charms, “The Other Guys” is concentrated, with more storyline and less pause for laughter. Even as it slightly sways into “bits,” it manages to brake before boredom sets in, with a joke funnier than the last, making it easy to forgive and forget, even as it borders the ridiculous.
Not surprisingly, Ferrell and Wahlberg handle the absurd consistently well. While the roles have been cast before (the tight ass vs. the loudmouth), they treat their conflicting personalities with a childlike “not uh” repartee, throughout the unorganized, clumsy, happenstance investigation, giving a fresh face to the once tired cop squad roles. And while Wahlberg is a newcomer to the slapstick scene, he holds his own between temper tantrums, pirouettes and smart ass wit, proving himself worthy of comedic consideration.
Not to mention he just kicks ass.
And McKay utilizes Wahlberg when it’s necessary and not just to flex his muscles. Instead the comedy director orchestrates action and comedy with an impressively balanced hand for a first timer, without awkwardly slapping an all out action scene around ridiculous over the top jokes. Instead he goes 50/50, using some bang to heighten the laughs and others for the brute force of action thrills. This even-tempered balance makes it all the more satisfying to watch Wahlberg punch and shoot while Ferrell ducks and runs.
In the end, they’re not “the other guys” but “the only guys” to recently pull off this genre with any margin of comedic value.