The Other Guys
Directed by Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material
1 hr., 47 min.

I don’t like getting in the habit of writing particularly negative reviews. This summer, however, has become a depressing time for moviegoers with surefire comedic hits (Grown Ups, Knight and Day, Shrek, etc.) failing to live up to their respective pedigrees, and no break-out indie success to mitigate the floundering studio fare. Many critics were hoping that last week’s Dinner for Schmucks would finally strike gold with a 2010 version of Meet the Parents, but that film also appears to have gained little traction among audiences.

As we enter August, the film slate only gets spottier — which means the latest Will Ferrell flick could be the last chance for a decent laugh until the unintentionally funny Expendables hits screens next weekend. But (again, I take no pleasure in saying this) it looks like big Hollywood has struck out once more with The Other Guys. Here’s a long overdue hint to any actor who shares the screen with Will Ferrell: if you yell a punch line at the top of your lungs, it doesn’t make it any funnier. The only person who can pull off obnoxiously yelling his best jokes is Ricky Bobby (or Elf, take your pick).

Conceived as a send-up of cop movie clichés in the same way that Talladega Nights spoofed sports movies, The Other Guys begins with promise. Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock even make brief cameos as super cops who always stop the bad guys — until their own bravado gets them killed. Naturally, the void left by the city’s heroes means that another police detective team needs to step up to become the top crime-stopping force. That’s where Wahlberg and Ferrell try to step in.

In classic odd-couple tradition, Wahlberg attempts to play the street-wise straight man while Ferrell plays the nerdy, risk-averse, pencil-pushing detective — who everyone knows will go completely bonkers about halfway through the movie. By now, audiences are familiar enough with his shtick to expect it in nearly every film (he’s become like Adam Sandler), and it really depends on his co-stars to provide the color.

Mark Wahlberg, who’s normally a terrific actor when he’s not belting out his lines with Ferrell-like gusto, unfortunately morphs into a bizarrely cartoonish version of his Departed character. It’s as if the only direction he was given was to become a caricature of his ball-busting detective from the Scorcese crime drama, and with the exception of a few well-written pieces of dialogue, he mostly falls flat.

So, too, with Eva Mendes, who plays Ferrell’s bombshell of a wife. Mendes is given little to do other than act oblivious to the fact that she’s supposed to be way too hot to be his wife. Surprisingly, it’s Will Ferrell’s police detective who becomes the most interesting character in the film. He morphs into a character very similar to his bumbling IRS auditor in Stranger Than Fiction (one of his most underrated films) and showcases a couple of new tricks to go with the familiar territory one expects from him.

But it’s the film’s familiar territory that ultimately is its undoing. Rather than running with the cop movie concept full bore, the film retreads Anchorman territory with plenty of recognizable bit actors playing the same roles they would play in any Ferrell movie. And there’s nothing wrong with seeing Rob Riggle, Derek Jeter and Michael Keaton cameos.

It’s just that the movie should have been more Tropic Thunder than Blades of Glory.

erik@vcreporter.com