The people who cut the trailer for The Other Guys had an interesting strategy: Rather than show all the funniest moments in order to sucker people in, they chose to make the movie seem as terrible as possible, lowering expectations so much that even if the movie was only sort of bad people would still be happy because they were expecting ludicrously awful.
So since the movie — a buddy cop comedy teaming Will Ferrell as an uptight Murtaugh to Mark Wahlberg’s testosterone-bursting Riggs — is actually pretty good, I’m pretty much ready to declare it will sweep the Oscars, cure cancer and repeal Arizona’s SB 1070.
Director Adam McKay is master of the first half hour. Each of his previous movies – Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers — is rib-shatteringly funny in the first act, golf-clap, half-smirk okay in the second act and get-me-out-of-here-now bad in the finale. McKay breaks his routine in The Other Guys, which is impossibly funny for the first half and half-smirk okay in the second half. With comedy being one of the most difficult arts to accomplish in moviedom, that makes The Other Guys a breakthrough on the level of Lethal Weapon or Pineapple Express.
Or not. I’m probably getting a little too carried away, and the more I think about it the more I’m sure the movie isn’t quite good enough to one day notch a spot in my crowded DVD case, but then again, maybe it just might sneak in. Moments from the movie keep playing in my head in a cycling highlight reel:
• Ferrell sprawled on the ground, wailing that he needs an MRI.
• Ferrell smacking Wahlberg in the face with a wooden gun. Okay, that was the one funny part of the trailer.
• Ferrell spontaneously pretending he’s a pimp, referring to himself as “Gator.”
• Two important characters plunging to spontaneous, unexpected death.
• The background revealing an approaching, impossible-to-avoid car accident that no one onscreen is aware of.
The movie is pretty much a shameless ripoff of Lethal Weapon, aping its ludicrous, though amazing, set pieces and relentless banter. But that’s just fine because big, fun, grown-up action flicks don’t come around often enough. The Other Guys is everything I hoped Cop Out would be but ended up being the complete opposite of. This thing sings. Wahlberg’s angst-ridden thuggishness clashes nicely with Ferrell’s tactless buffoonery, and the plotting actually surprises you as it rumbles toward its inevitable conclusion, with the partners solving the big case.
This is the sort of movie that will turn up on Spike or TNT in a few years. You’ll stop channel surfing, give it a few minutes and before you realize what happened it’ll be two hours later and you’ll be reciting Will Ferrell quotes in that special method of yours that renders them in no way funny. A true sign of a great film.
Starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Written by Adam McKay and Chris Henchy. Directed by McKay. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, is available on Amazon.