Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg make an inspired buddy cop pairing in “The Other Guys,” a rare comedy based on something other than snark or irony or insults or humiliation or high concept. This is that rarest of comedies — kept aloft by a delirious, surreal, irrepressibly sunny randomness, delivered with sincere conviction and all the funnier for it. In an early exchange destined to be memorized and repeated endlessly by fans, Detective Hoitz (Wahlberg), frustrated by being assigned to desk duty, tells off his new partner, Detective Gamble (Ferrell), who prefers the paperwork, using the metaphor of a lion devouring a tuna. Gamble comes back at him with a deliciously loopy monologue, taking the comment literally, and then, when Hoitz comes right back in on the same level, it reaches for the sublime.
Hoitz and Gamble work in a police precinct where two cops (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) get all the excitement, all the glory, and all the girls. That’s fine with Gamble, recently transferred from forensic accounting. But Hoitz, who likes to describe himself as “a peacock who needs to FLY!” is smoldering, furiously playing solitaire at his desk while other cops go out on all the exciting assignments. At a support group for officers who fired their weapons on duty, we find out why he was reassigned. Let’s just say he shot the wrongest guy imaginable.
When the two hero cops are out of the picture, Hoitz and Gamble step in, despite the competition from another team (Rob Riggle playing the frat boy part he always plays and Damon Wayans, Jr. looking like his dad) and the directions from their Chief (Michael Keaton). Of course, as in any buddy cop movie, there are detours to resolve some problems with the ladies (“You’re not a cop until your woman has thrown you out,” says Hoitz). And of course they will discover that they have more in common than they thought, including some anger management issues and interest in Gamble’s wife (a luscious and also very funny Eva Mendes).
There are some dull patches and misfires, especially a backstory about Gamble’s college years. But the action scenes are surprisingly dynamic and a sleazy Wall Street billionaire is played by the always-welcome Steve Coogan. (A brief, unbilled appearance by Ann Heche as another Wall Street type suggests there may be some good extras on the DVD.) And any movie with a police chief who does not realize he is constantly quoting TLC, a trip to “Jersey Boys,” a succession of hot women including Brooke Shields finding Ferrell’s character irresistible, a CD playing “Reminiscing” by the Little River Band, narration by Ice-T, and Wahlberg doing pirouettes qualifies as the funniest movie of the summer.
Parents should know that this movie has comic but graphic chases, explosions, gunfights, and punches with characters injured and killed, very strong language, crude macho banter, very explicit sexual references and non-explicit situation, prostitution, drinking, drunkenness, drinking to deal with stress, drug humor and brief drug use.
Family discussion: What did Gamble and Hoitz have in common? What do you think about the commentary over the closing credits?
If you like this, try: “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Anchorman”