When a serious genre has gotten as unintentionally self-parodying as buddy cop films have, making a true parody legitimately funny can be as hard as trying to track down the right perp. But “The Other Guys” focuses on creating a legitimately hilarious story rather than merely throwing a bunch of stereotypes on the screen. The result is an arresting success.
That isn’t to say director Adam McKay does not consistently and effectively spoof all the old conventions of the genre. The story is right out of cop-movie 101: rule-follower Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and rebel Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) come to respect each other while they throw their careers on the line to catch the bad guys.
What makes this film work as more than just a spoof are the script’s brilliant comedic moments that don’t rely on cop clichés. The script and actors craft dynamic characters in the two leads, garnering genuine comedy from their actions and reactions, rather than merely creating caricatures to be laughed at.
The leads share excellent chemistry. Walhberg’s tough-guy persona and high-pitched voice suits his character, while Ferrell’s role as Allen suits his talent of portraying both serious and off-the-wall crazy. The pair are perfectly attuned to one another; when Wahlberg explodes with frustration, Ferrell’s blandness only stokes his rage with hilarious results. And when Wahlberg shows some real-cop logic, it affords Ferrell the opportunity to go unhinged.
In fact, all the actors are excellent in their roles. Michael Keaton is superb as the harried police chief, while Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson have a dynamic that could have resulted in a real cop movie at another time and place. Ice-T is the perfect choice as the narrator, simultaneously honoring and poking fun at the legacy of buddy cop movies.
What this film lacks, however, is a true villain. Steve Coogan is a great little weasel as the law-bending financier. But the grand tradition of cop films having evil-masterminds with grand plots of world domination remains one of the few missing clichés.
While “The Other Guys” may not be revolutionary, it is an example of how to successfully parody a genre. With solid comedy not riding solely on cop-spoofing and great actors working with well-defined characters, this is one film that shouldn’t be locked away.
“The Other Guys” was written and directed by Adam McKay.