I recall reading somewhere a long time ago that Jack Nicholson once commented his 1963 film The Terror was the only motion picture he ever made that didn’t have a plot. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay can pretty much say the same thing about every film they’ve ever made. Every two years, this alleged comedian and supposed filmmaker “Duo of Doom” team up in order to make a comedy that usually manages to redefine “unfunny” and causes even those moviegoers with single-digit IQs to question what truly constitutes as a “plot” for these clowns.
In the past, Ferrell and McKay’s modus operandi has entailed McKay turning on the camera and letting Ferrell adlib until the cows come home and subsequently relinquish their own lives just to be spared of the misery. Their latest assault on humanity, a god-awful “farce” entitled The Other Guys, spares us in the sense that it doesn’t co-star John C. Reilly as Ferrell’s onscreen partner; instead giving former rapper Mark Wahlberg a chance to sink his career now that it’s finally on the rise.
The best way of describing The Other Guys would be to steal a couple of lines from the film’s stinger (a sequence that follows after the end credits have rolled):
“You didn’t think that was funny?”
“I thought it was entertaining at the end, sure, the way all the words were put together, but in terms of content? No.”
Incidentally, aside from a fleeting moment or two where the film’s soundtrack editor managed to emerge as the only person with a sense of humor (e.g. Rick Ashley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” pops on the radio during a four-man fight sequence confined to the inside of a Toyota Prius), the aforementioned stinger was the only part of the film that made me so much as grin. The rest of the film is an embarrassing, overrated and overlong struggle against all that is good in this world. If there’s a single solitary movie that the combined governments of the world will ever deem as being “against the Geneva Convention,” this is it.
When New York’s premiere set of bad-ass cops (portrayed by Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson — who pretty much emerge victorious as the true “highlight” of the film) jump to their death for no reason whatsoever (as the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” plays — the other scene where the soundtrack editor got it right), a void is left in the NYC’s police department. Several pairings of po-pos viciously compete for the spotlight, such as angry, bitter, disgraced officer Terry Hoitz (angry, bitter, disgraced Wahlberg) and his humorless, lifeless, annoying partner, Allen Gamble (humorless, lifeless, annoying Ferrell). But, instead of pursuing fleeing criminals on foot in a souped-up muscle car, Gamble insists on arresting entrepreneur David Ershon (Steve Coogan) for a noticeable lack of scaffolding permits.
But, scaffold permits are the least of Ershon’s crimes: he’s involved in a gigantically shady deal to screw some poor saps out of $32-million so he can pay off the other people he has screwed over. Naturally, this opens the window of adventure for Gamble and Hoitz — who are, unsurprisingly, completely oblivious to the situation. Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes co-star in this year’s contender for the Razzies.
Honestly, I’m making The Other Guys’ plot sound like it’s much more than it really is; and that’s because we’re supposed to see it as having more of a plot that it really does have. In reality, though, McKay once again gives us an inkling of a storyline, turns the camera on, and tells his actors to improvise — before succumbing to a peaceful slumber in the director’s chair. Now, while a little improvising is perfectly fine in just about any film and can often improve a scene (witness Robert De Niro’s classic “You talkin’ to me?” bit in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver), too much unsupervised and/or unrestrained extemporizing can result in something truly awful (Steven Soderbergh’s Full Frontal comes painfully to mind).
And The Other Guys is a truly awful film. McKay neglects the unwritten rule of “Don’t repeat a joke more than three times” (although once is perfectly contemptible in this case) and stretches some truly exhausting moments of grade-school humor to the point where even a grade-schooler would be inspired to look up the phrase “ad nauseum” just so they could coin it. This is even more evident in the extended, Unrated Edition of the film that is available on DVD and Blu-ray. The film’s epic failure to actually hold onto anything even remotely droll or witty for more than two seconds was evident in the original 197-minute theatrical cut of the film (which somehow passed with a very modest PG-13 rating — suggesting that the MPAA watched a version of the film that had been dubbed into Middle English or Esperanto). In the Unrated Edition, though, it’s 116 minutes of utter hell.
The Other Guys: “The Unrated Other Edition” (one of two Standard-Def DVD releases Sony Pictures Home Entertainment deemed it necessary to release — the other issue contains the Theatrical Cut only) features both the Unrated and Theatrical cuts of the film in a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. There are a number of good wrecks featured in the film (which is appropriate, since the entire film is a wreck!), and such moments of wanton vehicular destruction come through admirably both aurally and visually on DVD. Apart from these and a few other moments that you could almost swear were lifted wholesale from another film entirely, there is little else to be found in The Other Guys that would appeal to even single-cell organisms.
Special features include a handful of deleted/extended scenes (why do they torture us like this?), a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a very long outtake of co-star Michael Keaton adlibing.
In the end, The Other Guys is a disappointment: not just because it’s something you’ll be forced to consult your therapist about, but because it very well could have been something for you to write home about instead. The cast was right (well, except for that Ferrell creature, that is) and the concept — let’s not cheapen ourselves by using the word “plot,” now — was perfect for said cast (again, save for Ferrell: if they could just put a restraining bolt on him, I’m sure he might be tolerable). Unfortunately, though, the sum in this case winds up being lesser than its parts — and The Other Guys emerges on the whole as being just another dumb Will Ferrell/Adam McKay flick.