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Critical mass: 'The Other Guys'

August 6, 2010 |  1:07 pm


Our weekly look at what critics everywhere are saying about the weekend's top releases.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have both seen their share of career disappointments lately ("Land of the Lost" for Ferrell; "Max Payne," "The Happening" and "The Lovely Bones" for Wahlberg). But neither appears to be showing flop sweat heading into the opening of their first team-up in the action-comedy "The Other Guys." And that's good, because judging from the reviews, this one could be big for them.

The Times' own Betsy Sharkey sees it as a comeback for Ferrell and his frequent collaborator (and "Land of the Lost" producer) Adam McKay. "The plot doesn't always hold water, and it has a tendency to ramble, but they don't seem to care, " she writes. "And honestly, neither should you."

Over at the Washington Post, critic Michael O'Sullivan gave the film a mostly positive review, despite his lukewarm two-and-a-half star rating. "For the most part, 'The Other Guys' is seriously silly stuff, in the best sense," he says. 

Several critics noted the timeliness of the movie's financial sector villains and ...

... especially praised the end-credits lesson on the mechanics of Ponzi schemes and how corporate interests are frequently ripping off the working man. As Lisa Kennedy notes at the end of her positive review in the Denver Post, "We're not sure we want this sort of lesson delivered from the likes of overly compensated film types any more than we want the lovely ladies of 'Sex and the City 2' schooling us on feminism and Islam, but we get the picture: We, the people, are 'the other guys.'"

Something terribly dull apparently occurs about halfway through the film because that's the only way to explain so many major critics pausing to check their watches at the same time. The New York Times' A.O. Scott pegs it right at 45 minutes, saying, it "hums along nicely" for that length, but "like the misbegotten 'Cop Out,' 'The Other Guys' engages in a genre blending that is also a cynical commercial hedge."

Claudia Puig at USA Today is even stingier, with her time commitment: "What would have been very funny for 15 minutes, and pretty funny for 45, doesn't maintain the standard over the course of a feature-length film."

And though the Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea didn't stop to check his watch until the end, he was busy doing another kind of accounting. He comes to the conclusion that the film, "boasts perhaps three legitimately funny sequences in all its belabored 107 minutes."

Some critics laughed more than others, but most seem to agree that it's the film's plot mechanics that prove to be its undoing. Variety's Peter Debruge says it best: "The mystery effectively forces [Ferrell and Wahlberg's characters] into the shoes of competent cops, more or less defusing the underlying beta-male concept that some guys simply weren't born to lead."

-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Will Ferrell, left, and Mark Wahlberg play mismatched cops in the genre spoof "The Other Guys." Credit: Macall Polay / Columbia Pictures

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