Big Screen Peter: The Other Guys
Editor’s note: Peter Lewis has agreed to use whatever it is you call his writing style to provide some measure of analysis to those folks who still go to a theater to see a movie. Enjoy.
review by Peter Lewis
Not too long ago, I noticed a comment on a rather contentious The City Wire restaurant review by Mr. Adam Brandt. While the review has nothing to do with The Other Guys, the comment does. It was a direct quote from "Billy Madison," one of the funnier movies (at least from a teenager’s perspective) to come out in the 1990s. The quote is a direct response upon hearing a nonsensical and discombobulated answer during an "academic decathlon."
Since I watched "Billy Madison" upwards of 30 times with dear pals back in the depths of adolescence, seeing the quote gave me a good chuckle. Not only that, it happens to be the most apt description of “The Other Guys” I can relate. That is to say, the film is a jumbled mess.
There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments during the 100 minutes or so of run time, but the mere presence of laughter is not enough to buoy the film. The biggest flaw is a lack of narrative direction: Is it a send-up of the hero-worshiping cop genre? Is it a new take on the bromance? Or, like the graphics illustrating the widening wealth gap in America would like us to believe, is the film a commentary on America’s brand of capitalism?
In a sense, the film attempts to meld these disparate foci into a coherent, three part stair-step narrative. Let me be the first to tell you: they fail.
The film begins with a raucously hilarious parody of the self-righteous police movie — in which the need for a hero, preferably a true "bad ass," trumps all aspects of credulity. This first aspect is spot on and features great performances by The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson.
From there the film shakily moves into the exploration of Det. Allen Gamble & Det. Terry Hoitz (played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, respectively). As characters, the audience gets nothing more than cardboard cutouts. Ferrell plays a slightly uptight do-gooder with a penchant for paperwork, while Wahlberg plays the disgraced one-time golden boy — the offense that precipitated his fall from cop grace? Too good and too funny to reveal here.
Though underdeveloped, this relationship between Wahlberg and Ferrell does offer moments of unadulterated levity. Like the characters they play, however, their work is marked more by the failures than the attempts at success.
The narrative thrust of the film centers around an accountant named David Ershon (played by Steve Coogan). Initially, he enters the scope of Gambel and Hoitz via scaffolding permits, or lack thereof. With alacrity, this arrest turns south and Ershon becomes much more than a permit-skirter. This turn is never truly developed. We don’t get much insight into the evidence against Ershon, much less how Gamble mystically comes about it. Instead, there are cursory shots to illustrate this "work" and ill-formed attempts toward explanations. It seems that it’s enough to just telegraph to the audience that this man is bad and these guys are good.
Perhaps asking for clarity and true exploration is a bit much for a modern comedy. As I mentioned, it certainly has its funny moments. Truly, as a vehicle for Will Ferrell’s outlandish non-sequiturs, it is pure and unadulterated gold. Unfortunately, random outbursts cannot save the film. They may serve to buoy an audience member’s attention through the movie, but not much more than that.
Perhaps the largest crime perpetrated by the filmmakers occurs during the credits. With stylish graphics, the filmmakers detail the wrongs perpetrated against the majority of America by financiers and the government. While the information provided is undoubtedly interesting, one wonders why the audience is treated to these sorts of revelations at the end of the film, especially after such an incomplete exploration of the topic within the actual film.
It smacks of a patronizing attitude.
The fact they opted to tack this on at the end of the film instead of honestly integrating the material into the film seems to indicate either a distrust in the attention span of the audience or an inability to thoroughly synthesize the information during the film itself. Or, better yet, that the filmmakers hoped the addition of the closing montage would help deflect attention away from their shoddy product.
• The Other Guys is playing at the Carmike 14 and the Malco Cinema 12 in Fort Smith, the Malco Van Buren Cinema and the Poteau Theatre. Link here for time and ticket info.
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