The Other Guys is a simple comedy with action setpieces. Anybody looking for any sort of depth or intrigue probably didn’t see any trailers… or even the poster. However, the film is consistently funny throughout its entire runtime.
Before continuing, a definition must be outlined. The phrase, “McGuffin” refers to a plot device that does not directly influence the flow of the plot, but instead serves as a catalyst for the characters themselves to drive it forward. Think the briefcase in Ronin, or even the unobtanium in Avatar. These are two examples of things that do not directly influence the story, but instead sit idly by as the characters basically fight over them. The Other Guys is the only movie I’ve seen in which almost the entire story can be thought of as a McGuffin. From a comedic point of view, this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, a film can have the most idiotic plot ever, but can remain funny. The movie skims over a plot component that discusses corporate greed and financial scams, which is discovered by two cops, Terry (Mark Wahlberg) and Allen (Will Farrell). Terry and Allen set out to solve the case, trying to rise above their regular distinction of being the “losers” of the NYPD. But the fact is, it doesn’t really matter what this scam really is. It simply serves as a catalyst for Ferrell and Wahlberg to run around New York being funny. And by god, they are very funny. It’s not like the film falls flat on its face because it has no direction. Instead, the direction is the humor, not the plot.
The cinematography was pretty standard, not going for anything flashy, but at the same time it stayed away from the sitcom look. It had a few nice looking New York skyline night shots, but nothing more interesting than that.
The action, while it is mostly hollow due to the fact that there is no clear motivation behind it, is mostly composed of the actors pantomiming fear in front of a greenscreen. Of course, we do not see the greenscreen, but it’s quite obvious it’s there, hidden somewhere behind Will Farrell. Like Knight and Day a few weeks ago, the characters spend a lot of time running away from CGI. It’s not particularly brave filmmaking, unlike the similar film, Pineapple Express, which achieved a much more gritty and realistic look by simply ditching the greenscreen and smashing cars together. However, while Pineapple Express got its laughs by making the two main characters high the entire time, The Other Guys simply show us some strange characters and says “this is the way they are. They aren’t on drugs or anything that might make them a bit loopy. They’re just silly people living in a silly world.” Watching it we must suspend our disbelief occasionally and accept the state of the world they live in. And the humor reflects this. It doesn’t try to be smart, it simply shoots for raw sillyness and awkwardly funny situations… And it hits its target with many a chuckle.
The film is definitely more entertainment based, and while I prefer the art films, I also like laughing. It’s a tough choice, but once in a while, one just needs a good laugh. Think of it like going to see a stand-up comic instead of a film.
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(All ratings are out of five, with halves)
Direction: *** 1/2
Cinematography: ** 1/2
Dialogue: *** 1/2
Art Direction: *** 1/2
Overall “Film as Entertainment” Rating: **** 1/2
Overall “Film as Art” Rating: **
Overall: *** 1/2