Friday, August 6, 2010

The Other Guys (Adam McKay, 2010) -- C+

Predictably opting for pop culture riffs over true generic satire, Adam McKay's The Other Guys makes the same mistakes as most recent buddy cop send-ups; thankfully, this one's at least sporadically funny. Desk-confined NYPD scrubs Terry (Mark Wahlberg) and Allen (Will Ferrell) step onto the streets to investigate seemingly corrupt CEO David Ershon (Steve Coogan), leading them into gun-wielding baddies (Ray Stevenson plays the lead goon), an exploding insurance office, and umpteen car chases. If it sounds like fairly standard action fare, it is, and it's yet another failed effort to satirize the much belied genre without succumbing to its standard tropes. Ferrell and McKay supply their usual brand of comedy: re-contextualizing pop culture iconography. A particularly silly interlude explains Ferrell's passivity as directly related to his becoming a pimp in college. Taken out of hip-hip logos and placed in the duo's goofball routine, it's merely a transfer of scenario (here's the test for hilarity: listen to the film's original song titled "Pimps Don't Cry"). Other duds involve a homeless orgy, numerous Prius jokes, and a consistently tiresome, secondary cop duo of Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr. Problem is, The Other Guys fails to address masculinity or cop movie cliches in any interesting way (Hot Fuzz already nailed it, so everything following seems superfluous). McKay's film merely acknowledges genre, rather than actively trying to transcend it. It's sufficient praise to say the film's funnier and smarter than Cop Out, or wittier and more fluent than Date Night; but like nearly every modern comedy, the film's greatest problem is its pacing. Carrying over Saturday Night Live aesthetics, it's simply a string of sketches, jokes, and side-tracks in search of a cohesive whole. Even more disjointed is an end-credits cry for justice in the financial world, powerpointing the decline of the average American's 401K, lambasting Bernie Madoff greed, and chronicling CEO corruption. The message isn't objectionable, but it's completely out of place and a curious choice if meant to be taken seriously. There are certainly laughs here or there, maybe a few inspired visual bits - but ultimately it's simple, shallow moviegoing. None of the jokes resonate beyond Ferrell and McKay's beloved pop culture artifice.

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