Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
The Other Guys (2010)
Looking through Will Ferrell's filmography is like navigating a minefield of bad decisions. This includes such films as "Land of the Lost," "Step Brothers," "Semi-Pro," "Blades of Glory," and "Talladega Nights" (though to be fair, he did make a couple of decent films with "Stranger than Fiction" and the musical version of "The Producers”). Not long ago, the terrible film "Grown Ups" was released which featured several SNL veterans who had fallen quite a ways since leaving the show. It's sad to say that it looks like Ferrell has headed in the same direction for the most part, especially with his latest, "The Other Guys."
It tells the story of two NYPD cops, Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and his partner, Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). Allen is an uptight cop who seems to enjoy doing paperwork while the others make fun of him. Terry is fed up with having to sit behind a desk all day and constantly tries to get his partner to go out on a call with him. After the two main cops on the force, P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson), tragically lose their lives, Terry thinks that perhaps he and Allen could become the new top cops.
One day, Allen discovers a problem with a businessman's, David Ershon (Steve Coogan), construction permit paperwork, prompting him and his partner to go pick him up. After a strange encounter with some people claiming to be Ershon's security force, more pieces of the puzzle begin to appear. It's up to Allen and Terry to figure out what Ershon and his shady business partners are up to and stop them before they're able to carry out their plan.
This is another film where the trailers made it look like a dreadful experience, so I was hoping that the trailers were simply being misleading like "Dinner for Schmucks." No such luck here. What this film has to offer is actually very few laughs, mostly in the first half, before they come to a dead stop somewhere around the halfway mark. Taking into account that the film runs approximately 105 minutes, this makes it feel like it runs a lot longer.
The reason that most of it isn't funny is that the filmmakers go for far too many easy laughs. A particular scene that illustrates this is when Allen presents Terry with a mug that has FBI written on it, with FBI standing for something like "Female Body Investigator." Ferrell milks this for everything it's worth, but gets no laughs in the process.
Another thing that brings the level of comedy way down is the use of running gags that were never funny in the first place. One of these includes some awkward scenes where Allen continues to speak badly about his wife's, Dr. Sheila Gamble (Eva Mendes), looks to Terry even after it's revealed that she is beautiful. Another running gag involves Terry and Allen's captain, Gene (Michael Keaton), who continually quotes TLC songs while claiming not to know who they are.
Ferrell plays his role almost completely deadpan either because he too knew the material wasn't funny or he somehow thought that it would make it funnier. Unfortunately he was wrong on both counts as his portrayal gets more and more annoying as the film progresses. I would like to say something about Wahlberg's performance, but he left such little impact that it's hard to think of anything.
One of the biggest problems overall, besides the lack of comedy, was the lack of story. There are little pieces thrown in throughout the first 90 minutes, but it constantly takes breaks from it in order to engage in more flat jokes. Then it attempts to squeeze in a quick, convoluted story in the third act, but by this point it's already obvious that the writers, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, came up with the story as an afterthought to the jokes, and since there is practically no character development throughout the film, we have little reason to care about what's happening.
Granted, this film is a step above "Grown Ups" as the jokes are not of the scatological variety, but it's still hard to come up with something nice to say about a film where the most interesting scene involves a series of freeze-frames at a pub. At least it can be said that Will Ferrell has not sunk to the level of Adam Sandler....not yet anyway. 2/4 stars.