Fun time with 'The Other Guys'
A friend of mine used to tell folks Michael Keaton died of
hypothermia from the snowman costume in 1998's Jack Frost.
While obviously not the case, when they'd question him, he'd challenge them to name a film Keaton appeared in afterwards.
"See?" he'd say, when they couldn't. He had a point.
Now they can reply, "The Other Guys."
If comedy was measured in Keatons (it even sounds like a scientific term of measurement), this latest buddy-cop comedy would rank right up there.
Granted, Keaton only has a supporting role, but collaborating with venerable comic Will Ferrell (Old School) and the ever-flexible Mark Wahlberg (Date Night) makes The Other Guys an ensemble winner in an otherwise laugh-less summer.
Directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman), The Other Guys is genuinely funny, its experienced stars and writers (McKay and Chris Henchy) working in hilarious harmony to deliver laughs aplenty - more than anyone would expect from a summer comedy.
Ferrell and Wahlberg are New York City detectives Gamble and Hoitz, respectively - desk jockeys specializing in paperwork, the other guys. They work in the shadow of detectives Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction) and Danson (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Get Smart), living and breathing stereotypes straight out of an action movie. Highsmith and Danson enjoy all the glory, car chases, explosions and women, idolized by the media and adored by their peers - especially Gamble.
While Gamble's seemingly content in his low-key position, Hoitz wants a piece of the action. Following advice from their captain (Keaton, Beetlejuice), the duo seeks to follow through on a case - any case - and make their name. Their case, however, concerns illegal scaffolding, and the suspect is indebted multibillionaire Ershon (Steve Coogan, Tropic Thunder).
As Hoitz's paranoia has taught him, nothing is quite as it seems, and soon the two beleaguered detectives are caught in a whirlwind of tongue-in-cheek action movie cliches, as they realize things really aren't like they are in the movies.
Though the action and antics are amusing in their own right, The Other Guys works largely as a character comedy, as the audience grows familiar with its leads' unique neuroses.
The mild-mannered Gamble, it turns out, has a dark past, having worked unwittingly as a pimp called "Gator" during college, and his sporadic Gator flashbacks that seem to come out of nowhere are nothing short of hysterical.
A powder keg of anger and frustration, Hoitz, on the other hand, attacks his job with a zealous passion, always sporting his badge and eager to fit the movie detective stereotype, even at the cost of an empty love life.
It's the mismatched cop scenario, and under McKay's knowing watch, it works to brilliant effect, especially in the bizarre comic banter between Ferrell, Wahlberg and Keaton. The Other Guys is not afraid to make a detour for comedy's sake, the plot sometimes stepping aside to let its stars shine. McKay knows they're the centerpiece and seems content letting them do their thing.
And it works, from Gamble's strange thoughts on the undersea hierarchy to Hoitz's impeccable dance moves, which he learned ironically to mock actual dancers, to their captain's repeated and insistently inadvertent references to TLC songs.
"Don't go chasing waterfalls," he warns them.
And the supporting cast only makes it better. Eva Mendes (The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans) delights as Gamble's stunning, doting and appallingly underappreciated wife, while Jackson and Johnson revel in their roles of walking, talking archetypes - knowingly reflective of the parts that have generously padded their respective filmographies.
The Other Guys also delivers some pretty decent action sequences - gleefully over the top, a fitting complement to its brand of humor, but surprisingly well done at the same time. Case in point: A high-speed Prius chase.
It's obvious that everyone involved is having fun, and, fortunately, so is the audience.
The Other Guys, rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone and the Parkway Theatre in West Jefferson.