Any film that reunites Will Ferrell with his Anchorman director is worth a look. While the results have been both decent (Talladega Night: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and decidedly patchy (Step Brothers), there's always the hope that, just maybe, the next one will be a comedy to trump that gusset-threatening, massively quotable legend of Ron Burgundy. And, for an hour or more, The Other Guys looks to be just that film. However, after a brilliant start, it almost self destructs with a self-indulgent, overlong middle third before pulling it all back with a cracking finish.
Detectives Danson and Highsmith are the kind of cops that other cops dream of being. They're gung ho, they get results, they go the full McClane to get their man. Men want to be them, women want to be with them. And that's why they're played by Dwayne Johnson (he who shall not be referred to as The Rock) and Samuel L. Look over their shoulders though, to the desk in the corner and you'll see "the other guys", the cops like Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) who just can't get a shot. Mind you, as far as Gamble's concerned,that's a very good thing as this way he can get on with the paperwork he adores. Hoitz, however, is deeply frustrated. He's been lumbered with a partner who likes being deskbound — thanks to a (brilliantly funny) mistake in his past — and is eager to get out there and prove his worth.
Of course, it's due to Gamble's "forensic" policing that the two stumble across a huge crime: a $32bn fraud by Sir David Ershon (Coogan), a British businessman who's under pressure to repay some very dodgy characters. Unfortunately, as they rapidly discover, several of those characters don't want Ershon's latest scam to be discovered and they've also got the ear of Gamble's and Hoitz's superiors. They've got a chance to be "Those Guys" but, to do so, they've got to defy all expectations and break all the rules.
Ferrell is on excellent form, and Wahlberg makes an exceptional foil. It's his straighter role, in fact, that provides some of the cruellest, blackest laughs while allowing Ferrell some fantastically bizarre flights of fancy: Gator, the accidental pimp, for example or the excellent running gag about insanely beautiful women falling instantly for Gamble. This is best demonstrated by Eva Mendes' fantastically shameless performance as Gamble's ludicrously attractive wife. As she proves several times, Mendes is a gifted comedienne and more than holds her own against some tough competition. There's also excellent support from Michael Keaton as their superior officer, and spot on playing from Johnson, Jackson and Coogan, who's the most bearable he's been for sometime.
The problem is simply running time. You could easily shave 20 minutes because, well, there's clearly 20 weak minutes here, that provide no laughs and contribute nothing to the plot. Yes, there's the odd chuckle but, with the groin-pulling hilarity of what proceeds and follows, that's not good enough. It's perhaps churlish to criticise McKay et al for a little self-indulgence because The Other Guys is still the funniest film of the year by some considerable margin (not to mention the funniest film ever to contain a Wayans brother) and contains the best line ever uttered by an arresting officer: "I hope you like prison food. And penis." However, while the masses will lap and laugh it up, there's a sense of frustration because The Other Guys is but a little judicious editing from comic perfection.