The Michael Keaton Comeback Continues…

Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline:

Adam McKay’s comedy The Other Guys has a lot going for it: Even though it mines perennial cop-buddy-movie material, it doesn’t feel generic or strained, and unlike other recent comedies — Dinner for Schmucks pops to mind — it never descends into grating self-consciousness. Forget impressing us with its cleverness; it’s happy to seduce us with its dumbness, and when McKay and his performers — chief among them Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Eva Mendes — dangle that shiny lure, damn it if it doesn’t work at least half the time.

But The Other Guys isn’t easy to peg. It’s not a comedy that loosens you up and mellows you out; it works by needling you progressively into a state of anxiety. I walked out of the thing with my nerves humming. Part of that has to do with the chemistry between its two stars, Ferrell and Wahlberg. They’re an uneasy yet inspired match: Ferrell is Allen Gamble, the most timid New York City cop imaginable (he was transferred over from forensics accounting), who’s happy to sit at his desk whenever an urgent call comes in over the radio. His partner, Wahlberg’s Terry Hoitz, is a thundercloud with a badge who can’t wait to get out there and prove his stuff. The problem is, he’s already proved it: A hothead with a gun, he gained renown in the force after shooting Derek Jeter by mistake. (Jeter himself appears in a tiny, amusing cameo.)

At headquarters, Alan and Terry sit opposite one another — Alan tapping away at his computer, Terry perpetually tapping his leg. Alan annoys his officemate first by absent-mindedly humming the theme from S.W.A.T., then moving on to I Dream of Jeannie. Terry responds to these happy-go-lucky tics by blowing up. He calls Alan a fake cop before progressing to even harsher, if inane, insults: “The sound of your piss hitting the urinal — it sounds feminine to me!” he blurts out. He’s cooped up in the office, and he hates it. “I am a peacock! You’ve gotta let me fly!” he tells the world, or at least the office.

Rob Hunter at Film School Rejects:

The Other Guys is Adam McKay’s fourth feature collaboration with Ferrell, and while its ranking among Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers will vary from viewer to viewer there’s no question that the duo remains one of the best comedic relationships in recent Hollywood history. (For the record, I’d place it second in their combined resume.) McKay, who also co-wrote the film, does a fantastic job milking every scene for laughs like they were ‘La vache qui rit’ Babybels. (I swear that made sense when I typed it.) The humor isn’t story based but instead comes from all corners… jokes, running gags, and brief detours into insanity fly fast and loose. We get some fun at the expense of action movie tropes during car chases and shootouts, a priceless re-definition of the term ‘soup kitchen’ involving homeless folks having an orgy in a Toyota Prius, a flashback to Gamble’s college years with Ferrell intermingling with much younger co-eds, and if you thought laughs associated with TLC died in Honduras eight years ago guess again my friends.

One of the biggest obstacles in creating a good buddy-anything movie is finding a pair of actors with chemistry capable of  playing off each others strengths to the benefit of the film as a whole. Ferrell and Wahlberg succeed pretty well here. Fans of Ferrell’s particular style of goofiness and comedic charm will be reminded why they find him so damn funny, and newcomers to the Ferrell fold (located right below his perineum) may find themselves adding his back catalog into their Netflix queue. And Wahlberg has already teased his comedic chops in I Heart Huckabees, Date Night, and The Happening, but this flick confirms it. His funniest bits are more passive compared to Ferrell’s flat-out zaniness, but he still garners big laughs. The scene where he’s first introduced to his partner’s bombshell wife (Mendes) is five straight minutes of his perfect reactions and delivery.

The supporting cast is just as successful at extracting laughs from your gullet and add to the non-stop barrage of chuckles. Coogan is joined by Eva Mendes, Rob Huebel, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr., Dwayne Johnson, Samuel Jackson, and Michael Keaton. Even Ice-T gets to be a funny man via some sharply written narration. They’re all on top of their game here, but Keaton in particular shows that he still has the brilliant comedic timing that first made him a star. There’s no excuse for his absence from the big screen.

Scott Tobias at Onion AV Club:

It’s a testament to Will Ferrell’s comic genius that his movies are any good at all. Ferrell isn’t a satirist or an observational humorist, and he isn’t comfortably confined within the guardrails of a script, even a well-written one. His natural outlet is the sketch comedy of Saturday Night Live, where his gift for digressive silliness could be packaged into five- or 10-minute bits. So a good Will Ferrell movie, like the inspired buddy-cop comedy The Other Guys, gloms together enough clever riffs and random funny business to overcome the inevitable lumpiness and dead ends. It helps that Ferrell’s regular collaborator, director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers), has a visual panache that’s rare in Hollywood comedies, and especially useful when shoot-outs and car chases come into play. Cop Out this ain’t.

[…]

Great casting takes The Other Guys most of the way: Ferrell draws a wealth of good material from his character’s oddball ineffectuality, and he partners perfectly with Wahlberg, who’s always best at his most incredulous. In the role of their commander, Michael Keaton finally gets a chance to return to the unhinged comedy of his early films, and Coogan is appropriately oily as a preening moneybags-type who charms people with Broadway tickets and cucumber water. Some running gags get stretched to the breaking point, like Ferrell’s unaccountable ability to attract hot women (Eva Mendes plays his wife) and a story from his past, but McKay gives the film enough structure and style to keep the action moving. And as in the best Ferrell vehicles, if a joke fails, several disarming and original ones always follow in short order.

Josh Levin at Slate:

Left alone, Ferrell and Wahlberg struggle with the constraints of a well-worn genre. What happens when a mild-mannered accountant and an insult-heaving hothead try to put the screws to a rapacious, scheming capitalist (Steve Coogan)? Pretty much what you’d expect, including the car chases. With The Other Guys‘ comedy kingpin under wraps as a strait-laced “paper bitch,” McKay et al. needed to give the less yuk-inducing Wahlberg the gift of better lines. But Wahlberg doesn’t say anything memorable the entire movie, perhaps on account of the movie’s PG-13 rating—his tough-talking cop in The Departed was a lot more fun to watch, thanks to the 50 different ways he had to say Go fuck yourself. By the time Ferrell sheds his tie and gets manic, the movie’s formula has gotten a little too stale to salvage.

In fairness to McKay and Ferrell, their movies are properly evaluated less as coherent narratives than as sequences of quotable nuggets. Even so, The Other Guys has too few quotable moments—I’m partial to Ferrell’s inspired rant about how a pack of tuna could stalk and devour a pride of lions—to fill the gaps between the big laughs, which are yawning compared to Anchorman and Talladega Nights. One big reason for this deficiency is that the supporting cast doesn’t offer enough support after Danson and Highsmith’s untimely passing—Eva Mendes just stands around looking pretty, while Michael Keaton’s captain does little else besides unintentionally quoting songs from the TLC back catalog.

At times, The Other Guys‘ cop clichés get shoved aside for a critique of the financial world, as Coogan’s slimy, Bernie Madoff clone defrauds his investors of $32 billion. Strangely, the movie saves its sharpest critiques for the closing credits, when a series of slick charts and graphs detail how Ponzi schemes work, how the ratio of CEO-to-employee salaries has skyrocketed, and how much AIG executives have received in bonus payouts. If it was a little more ambitious, The Other Guys could’ve been the funniest episode of Planet Money ever. Instead, it’s just another cop comedy.

Vic Holtreman at Big Hollywood:

Anyway… I didn’t go in to The Other Guys expecting much (I think that the buddy cop/action film parody was done to perfection with Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz), but I was mildly surprised to find myself chuckling throughout and laughing out loud more than once.

Until John pointed it out in the aforementioned story, I didn’t know the political affiliations of Adam McKay or anyone else behind the film – but having been educated I went in forewarned and expecting to be beat about the head with political potshots.

The movie was actually funny in parts, which as I said, I didn’t expect. The plot MacGuffin was that a billionaire lost $32 billion from an investment fund and had to find some “sucker” to replace it before the news got out and crashed the stock of the firm for which he managed it. By the end we find out who the sucker is, but while this is the “mystery” to be solved by the two protagonists (Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell), it never feels like the focus or driving force of the story – just a device around which the exploits of our two main characters can revolve. They focus on it right towards the end and that’s the end of it (you think).

But then the credits start to roll with 1960s style graphics and some overlaid text describing what a Ponzi scheme is with some simple 2D animation. From there they go on to start listing the biggest Ponzi schemes starting with the first major one from the 1920s(?) that cost investors $15MM and then on to Bernie Madoff and his $60+ billion. THEN it continues on comparing CEO/executive pay to the average worker in an elevator graphic showing the multiple back to the early 20th century (7X I think?) to present day with a dramatic pause where it jumps from 100X to 300X in the last few years (complete with images of CEOs as fat cats relaxing by the beach). Then on to the average person’s 401K value in the 1990s, to a couple of years ago, to today (huge drop, of course).

It was like being pummeled – as if the credits were designed by Michael Moore. On the bright side (I suppose) the credits also slammed the TARP bailouts.

What’s odd is that I really didn’t feel like there was much of a political slant in the film itself – you could either interpret Will Ferrell as the even-keeled, kind-hearted Liberal or the nice-on-the-surface yet repressed Conservative.

But the end credits… I could NOT believe the studio signed off on tacking something like this to the end of a comedy. If this had been at the end of Oliver Stone’s upcoming Wall Street 2 I wouldn’t have batted an eye, and it would have been very appropriate. But you’d think with a comedy they want people to walk out laughing and happy to recommend it to others – this will leave people walking out most likely angry, regardless of whether one is on the Left or the Right (for different reasons, I would think).

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