The extent to which you’ll likely enjoy The Other Guys will depend on your opinions of Anchorman and its Nascar pseudo-sequel, Talladega Nights, and the family-version, Step Brothers. This is the fourth collaboration between Will Ferrell, as actor, and Adam McKay, as director, and the comedy of all four exists in the same Anchorman universe, though I’d argue that The Other Guys is their best effort since that original one. It’s fairly basic comedy: Put Will Ferrell in a room, and allow him to improvise profanity-fueled gibberish for 100 minutes. About a third of the time, it’s shart-yourself funny while another third of the time, it falls hopelessly on its ass. But the impressive thing about The Other Guys, like Anchorman and Step Brothers before it, is that an hour after you’ve left the theater, the only thing you remember are the high notes. They’re movies that are made for the memorable quotes section of IMDb, one-liners that will live on for years as frat-boy shorthand.
It’s meathead humor — homophobic, macho bravado oneupmanship — but as meathead humor goes, it’s inspired, tinged with off-the-wall splats of pop-absurdity. When Will Ferrell is on his game, no one does it better — it’s early Adam Sandler’s temperamental explosions stretched into a full length movie and tossed with goat fucking, blasphemy, and juvenile punchlines. But it’s also comedically brilliant, and you find yourself repeating some of the better lines to yourself in the hopes that you can hang on to them before IMDb populates their quote section, because there are 15 to 20 “punch you in the ovary” gems. All that was really missing from The Other Guys, besides the fact that this brand of humor isn’t new anymore, was a Brick Tamland character, though Sam Jackson and Dwayne Johnson — in their brief appearances — help close that gap.
The plot is formulaic and beside the point, a framing device really for the humor. Will Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, a straight-laced college-pimp-cum-police accountant, content in his position behind a desk, where he’s strangely alluring to incredibly hot women. Mark Wahlberg is Terry, the hothead sociopathic partner who had his career derailed after he accidentally shot a certain celebrity in the leg (I won’t ruin the cameo). After the hilarious demise of The Guys, Allen and Terry find themselves in competition with Martin and Fosse (Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans, Jr.) to fill that role. They get themselves inadvertently involved in a case of financial fraud that involves Anne Heche and Steve Coogan, and the storyline falls into its formulaic place: They get too close, they get thrown off the case, they continue the investigation behind their superior’s back (Michael Keaton), and *spoilers* they save the day.
But it’s not about that. It’s about Will Ferrell and, to some extent, Mark Wahlberg, who yells his way through the movie, sometimes with great comedic effect, while sometimes you just wanna tell him, dude, simmer down. Eva Mendes, as Ferrell’s out-of-his-league wife, is great, too, with her limited screen time. But it’s Ferrell’s movie, and this is the good Ferrell — the Ferrell from Anchorman and Old School, and not the Ferrell from Semi-Pro and Blades of Glory. It’s the Adam McKay Ferrell. The one that doesn’t have to reign it in or stick to a script.
The whole movie is dumb as testicle barnacles, but it’s ridiculously, absurdly, maniacally goat-shit dumb, and it never runs out of steam. There’s even a slight political undertone, which is highlighted brilliantly in the closing credit sequence. And while some are calling The Other Guys a cop spoof, I wouldn’t put it in that category. It’s not Hot Fuzz, though it’s certainly not Cop Out, either. It doesn’t subvert or blow-up conventions, it just layers them with half-witted, illogical blathering non-sequiturs. It’s nonsense, but it’s hysterical nonsense, and easily the funniest studio movie of the summer.