Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay have collaborated on three other movies -- Step Brothers, Talladega Nights and Anchorman -- but they've never been so slyly funny as they are in The Other Guys, a buddy-cop satire so hilarious that even longtime Ferrell haters (me) can't resist it.
Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as pencil-pushing New York cop partners with entirely different approaches to the job. Prim Gamble (Ferrell) is the nerdy forensic accountant who would rather fill out paperwork than chase a bad guy. Perpetually angry Hoitz (Wahlberg) longs for action, but he's stuck on desk duty for what has to be one of the worst mistakes a New York cop can make (no, not for wearing a Red Sox jersey to work, but close). They're the laughingstocks of the department, the antitheses of the glamorous, hot-dogging partners Highsmith and Danson (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, making delicious fun of their tough-guy personas), who get the headlines, notoriety and bad guys.
Then Gamble and Hoitz get a shot at a real case when an investigation into a scaffolding-permit scandal yields surprising dividends involving a big-time investor (Steve Coogan). The partners are forced out of their rut, much to the dismay of their skeptical captain (Michael Keaton, who is funny enough to deserve more screen time).
The cast -- which also includes Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr. as mocking co workers and Eva Mendes as Gamble's inexplicably hot wife -- is uniformly loose, displaying none of the sloppy humor that results when improvisation reigns unchecked (see Adam Sandler's Grown Ups for an example of what can go wrong when there's too much noodling around with the script). The humor is that rare perfect balance of broad and satiric. The Other Guys is the sort of movie that generates some of its best jokes quietly in the background or as quick-hit throwaway lines, while other terrific gags are defiantly over the top. Even the film's strange, statistics-filled final credits are uniquely amusing.
And if Ferrell has never been your cup of tea, fear not; he's a solid part of the ensemble. Even someone who hated such Ferrell classics as Old School (me) will enjoy his company in the The Other Guys.
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Eva Mendes, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson.
Director: Adam McKay.
Screenwriters: Adam McKay, Chris Henchy.
Producers: Patrick Crowley, Jimmy Miller.
A Columbia Pictures release. Running time: 107 minutes. Crude and sexual content, language, violence, some drug material.
Mark Wahlberg, left, and Will Ferrell in Columbia Pictures' comedy "The Other Guys."