A month or so a go, I wrote an article bemoaning the comedy genre: saying that, as a general rule, I don’t like movies made merely to make me laugh.
Then I saw The Others Guys.
Could this be the movie that makes me eat my words? (preferably as part of an alphabet soup…)
The premise to the film is fairly promising: it opens with The Rock and Samuel L Jackson playing the archetypical buddy movie cops: stopping at nothing to get results. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are The Other Guys, the bean-counters and paper-chasers who do the behind the scenes policing no one notices or really cares about.
However, when Will Ferrell uncovers some planning violations by the head of a major corporation, they finally get embroiled in the type of case that could make them big shots.
With plenty of references to cop movie cliches, such as Wahlberg’s obsession that the case must somehow involve drugs, the film is mostly enjoyable to watch.
It attempts to rise above being ‘just a comedy’ by dealing with the current financial crisis: references to bail-outs, and Ponzi schemes attempting to give it some relevance and gravitas to events of the last few years.
Largely, the movie itself succeeds in doing this, and I thought the idea of a plot not revolving around drugs or serial killers was a good one.
However, there are two ways in which I believe it didn’t work on its own terms:
Firstly, the movie had the potential to make fun of the action sequences and ticking time bombs of its peers by showing how cases are normally solved with paper chases. This is supposed to be a movie about The Other Guys, yet it seems to be successful you have to becomes just The Guys: the film ending with exactly the type of scene they make fun of in its opening minutes.
Secondly, it completely undermines its fairly well-presented critique of the age we live in with its closing sequence. A sequence which gives us lots of statistics about how big banks are bad, should have paid more for the mistakes they made, and how greed is out of control.
If you’re gonna quote these statistics, the end of what is essentially a straight-up comedy is certainly not the place for it. What next? Some statistics about women’s rights at the end of Anchorman? On the unfair treatment of fathers in divorce cases after Mrs Doubtfire? To be preached at during a documentary is one thing. To be preached at during the end of a Will Ferrell movie, quite another.
In short, The Other Guys was a relatively good idea, but wasn’t as funny as I’d hope it would be, nor as smart or meaningful as it is trying to be. I can’t help but feel you’d be safer watching Hot Fuzz, which plays up the same cop-movie cliches, but does so without one of the most ill-judged and sanctimonious end-credit sequences I’ve ever seen.