The Other Guys

 

            Spoofing is a delicate business.  You can be so subtle that the viewers hardly know you’re playing a parody of your own part.  Then there are those who are a self-parody even when they try not to be.  And if you’re going to move the story forward at all, there has to be some semblance of a plot, which means you have to get semi-serious in places, and make that believable, without losing the ability to revert to tongue-in-cheek humor at any time.  Tricky stuff.  It hardly ever works just right, or is sustainable over an entire full-length feature.  So it’s almost always uneven.  And “The Other Guys” certainly fits that description.  And yet, there are some funny moments, and some surprising chemistry between the main characters.
            Will Ferrell, who’s a walking self-parody, plays Detective Allen Gamble, who’s famous around the NYPD for being the supreme office nerd.  He’s sitting at his computer doing building code analyses of who hasn’t applied for scaffolding inspection.  The “real cops” make him do their paperwork, and talk him into making a fool of himself by discharging his weapon toward the ceiling (they call it a “desk pop” and claim that everyone does it, and he needs to join the club).  His partner, Terry (Mark Wahlberg) is over there on his computer playing solitaire, because this is a dud detective partnership.  They don’t go out on emergency calls, leaving the glory to flamboyant publicity hounds like Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson (their character names are meaningless, because they really are playing caricatures of themselves).  Terry, while a rookie cop, infamously shot Derek Jeter while working security at a Yankees game, and his career has been impossible ever since.
            Their personal lives are even more bizarre.  Terry’s girlfriend is a ballerina, but he doesn’t seem to understand, and crashes in on her rehearsal yelling about pole dancing and threatening her dance partner.  Obviously, he doesn’t get it.  (Then the former Marky Mark launches into a few ballet moves of his own, just for parody’s sake.  That’s the kind of intentional awkwardness that either works or it doesn’t.)  Allen, for his part, listens to really bad oldies music (like “Little River Band” and “The Mamas and The Papas”) in his little Prius, hardly the muscle car of choice.  He says his wife is very plain, but she turns out to be the ravishing Eva Mendes, who doesn’t seem to realize what a dork he is, and Terry is completely incredulous about this matchup.  In fact, that’s one of the constant goofs:  the beautiful women are always falling all over Allen, for no apparent reason.  (Maybe that’s a social statement in itself:  the puzzling romantic choices of gorgeous females.) 
            The kind-of-a-plot involves some corrupt financier who’s betting on the police’s pension fund to finance his Ponzi scheme.  (There’s an interesting commentary during the credits on just how much money the recent bailouts have cost the taxpayers, as sharply contrasted with CEO salaries, which feels like soft-core Michael Moore.)  Throw in Michael Keaton as a distracted police captain moonlighting at “Bed, Bath, And Beyond”, and some weird “buddy” moments where the detectives actually try “starting over” with each other to overcome past arguments, and then the “whisper fight” at a cop funeral, and you’ve got some unusual segments in this action/farce.  And of course some of it is just plain silly and pointless, because no comedy skit is indefinitely sustainable.  But this one has some good “chuckle” moments, if you can stand to sit through the rest of it to get there.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas