In case you weren’t aware, Step Brothers is the greatest achievement ever in cinema ever.
Okay, it’s not. But at the rate that I, a film dork, think back to the Comedy Extroardinaire from Will Ferrell and frequent collaborator writer / director Adam McKay, it certainly would seem to own a spot on AFI’s top hundred. Following up solid laughers Anchorman and Talladega Nights, the McKay / Ferrell team has proved maybe the most bankable in Hollywood when it comes to laughs. If you’ve gone the past six years without someone quoting a Ron Burgundy line to you, it’s because you haven’t talked to anyone the past six years.
And, as a fan of the divisive Step Brothers, I, more than most, was totally excited for McKay and Ferrell’s newest film, The Other Guys. Maybe it’s because of these high expectations, but this fourth film from the duo appears to be the first hiccup, and unfortunately not a small one.
With The Other Guys, McKay turns his attention to the buddy cop genre with intention to wring out a soild laugher that doubles as a strong action flick. This might be McKay’s biggest mistake – it’s made clear early on that his action skills are lacking. Even with the effervescent Dwayne Johnson and Sam Jackson hamming up a NYC streets, drug fueled car chase, McKay fails to turn in anything to get the audience pumped. Everything they do onscreen is awesome, it just never feels that way. This is just the first of several scenes that try to roil up the audience, but none of them pop like they need to.
Just as murky is the plot. His first film to contain a solid storyline, following a rich scumbag making money off the innocent, The Other Guys McKay fails to deliver the story clearly. This might just be because I understand nothing about finance, and hell, that probably is part of it; but I would have liked to understand where the characters were at each point in the film.
But these issues wouldn’t matter as much if the film were funny, and there certainly are laughs. I think I’ve read a dozen pieces about McKay this past week, all of which remark upon his absurdist sense of humor, and there’s plenty of that to be had here. It boasts jokes about Orgies of friendly Hobos, complaints about Hollywood explosions not exposing their harm to the inner-ears of their victims, and a serious discussion about who would win in a Tuna – Lion deathmatch. It also features totally game, normally not comedic actors like Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes turning out solid one-liners.
It’s got some solid yuks, but it feels like a step down from previous films. Maybe it’s just because Ferrell is suddenly working off of straight man Mark Wahlberg, whose decent comedic ability is a fraction of Talladega Nights and Step Brothers‘ John C. Rielly, but there are plenty of jokes that just don’t go the distance. It’s all very silly, but it’s grounded out by a less-talented cast and a plot that sometimes caters too hard to political themes – following Ponzi-scheming antagonists, the films credits detail how much corporations and investors have stolen from average Americans – to feel very funny.
I’ll be honest – I’m half-convinced I didn’t give The Other Guys a fair shot. Maybe my hopes were too high, or I was in a bad mood; because it’s a movie from filmmakers I love, getting strong reviews all around. So regardless of whether my first take will end up being my final one was well, I’ll certainly hope to come around to it.