As director and co-writer of "The Other Guys", McKay brings the best out of Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, and the rest of the cast. It combines action and comedy better than any similar comedy I have seen in a long time.
"The Other Guys" refers to, of course, the detectives who rarely get a piece of the archetypal cops-and-robbers shenanigans that are frequently seen in action movies or on "Law & Order". They remain mainly at their desks doing paperwork, something almost never seen in movies. Ferrell is Allen Gamble, who is somewhat content with managing case work on his computer, and Wahlberg is the far more forceful and ambitious Terry Hoitz.
Their characters are in sharp contrast to the cops that Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson portray in this film (and definitely in other films). Although Jackson and Johnson were also funny here, I hate that the previews gave away their cameos in this movie. It would have been more exciting if the audience didn't expect them when they stepped into the theaters. Then again, that is the fault of whomever marketed this film, not the filmmakers themselves.
When Allen and Terry start working on a case they have a lead in, one they get to before other senior detectives do, a really interesting detective story progresses that would not feel out of place in dramas like "The French Connection" (1971) or similar action/detective movies to that nature.
''When you do a comedy, it does no good to reference comedies,'' writer and director Adam McKay told Entertainment Weekly, ''You want to treat it like a drama 80% of the way. Then, at the last 20%, you f**k it up".
The last 20% made this movie work, naturally. More than that, though, Ferrell didn't get all the funny lines, which is the mistake that many buddy cop movies such as the recent "Cop Out" (2010) make. Wahlberg is as intense as he usually is in most movies, but he has laugh- out-loud hilarious lines that he plays effectively with a straight face. His line about being a peacock may make AFI's Most Memorable Movie Quote list in the next few years, and the hot water his character got into in an incident involving Derek Jeter (making a cameo as himself) made the audience at my screening cheer. Of course, I saw the movie in Boston, but I'm just saying.
However, the 20% of the movie that was funny was further enhanced by the story. Again, many buddy cop movies of recent years that have tried to be "48 Hours" make the mistake of introducing the villain early on, similar to a superhero comic book. This movie has you try to solve the mystery along with Ferrell and Wahlberg, and there are some decent twists and turns that really make you wonder who the culprit is.
I will say that the mystery was a bit confusing, especially since it involves a Rupert- Murdoch-meets-Donald-Trump tycoon (Steve Coogan) and some financial plot. As a critic, I could pretend to accurately interpret everything that I see on screen. However, I'm not a Wall Street expert, and numbers involved in trading, stocks & bonds, and all the rest confuse me. Nonetheless, even if you watch this movie not knowing who's wrong or right and why, you will still love the ride.
The closing credits featured cleverly-animated financial facts pertaining to the recent financial meltdown, which appeared to be meticulously researched but still out of place. Their presence reminded me of Charlie Chaplin's anti-Nazi plea for humanity at the end of "The Great Dictator" (1941). His speech didn't fit the slapstick comedy of the first 90% of the movie, but looking back, it was still necessary to hear. I feel as though this montage of facts may have the same effect.
Overall, though, "The Other Guys" is not just another movie. Some gags seemed a bit out of place, and the tired plot point of the police chief pulling the main cops off the case still seeped its way into the story. However, it helped that that chief was Michael Keaton in what could be a comeback performance, and that he had some hysterical lines as well. The movie tells a great story, everyone in the movie is funny without appearing to try too hard (especially in Ferrell's case), and the ensemble cast works together perfectly. In a year of mediocre (non-animated) comedies, "The Other Guys" lives up to its hype.