Review: “The Other Guys” Has Ferrell Back in Form

"The Other Guys" stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as a couple of down-on-their-luck NYPD detectives who find their shot at redemption when they stumble upon the a multi-billion dollar scam. Fans of Ferrell will be relieved to see the once-great funny man recapture some of the old magic in this buddy-cop-action comedy.

The film, directed and co-written by longtime Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay ("Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights," "Anchorman"), is a bit of a departure for the duo. As McKay gleefully noted from the film's red-carpet premiere, "We blow stuff up." In fact they waste no time bringing the pyrotechnics and the high-speed car chases, which McKay handles nicely with some good camerawork and quick edits. It all looks a bit silly at times, but it's supposed to, as McKay makes sport of a genre he clearly loves.

The film marks a return to form for Ferrell, whose previous feature, "Land of the Lost," was such an epic failure that it cost two men their jobs, drew the ire of anti-smoking activists and lost roughly $30 million. Throw in 2008's "Semi-Pro" and "Blades of Glory" from 2007 and you've got three clunkers of varying severity broken up only by "Step Brothers." There's a pretty clear pattern at work here: Ferrell + McKay = Funny, Ferrell + Director X = Crapshoot.

Ferrell's Det. Allen Gamble is a career desk jockey (and total babe magnet who joined the force to do forensics accounting. He's a buttoned-down nerd, that allowing Ferrell to do his earnest shtick -- but the character has a back-story that allows him him to go full-nutter at points and have it work. It's a relief to see him not trying so damn hard all the time.

Wahlberg's performance will be a vindication to both fans and haters. For most of the film he brings a whole new level of oblivion to the straight man's role -- at times it's almost as if he's being parachuted in from a different movie entirely. But he's periodically allowed to get the laughs, particularly when he's fawning over Ferrel's how-did-he-get -her hot wife, Sheila (played by Eva Mendes, whose sex tape recently hit the web). It's a bizarre turn overall, one that largely works.

Michael Keaton, fresh of his great turn as Ken in "Toy Story 3," gives another fine performance as our heroes' beleaguered captain (pay attention to his name, baseball fans), with Bobby Canavale, Damon Wayans Jr., Dwayne Johnson and McKay (as a particularly randy hobo) all pitching in. Steve Coogan, who at one time was arguably the funniest man alive (find "I'm Alan Partridge" on DVD sometime), is good as well, but it's a role that isn't all that comedic -- what this guy is doing with his career these days in unclear.

"The Other Guys" provides exactly the kind of dopey laughs we've come to expect from Ferrell and McKay over the years, with a few explosions, car crashes and untimely deaths thrown into the mix, achieving the balance of comedy vs action that was so badly lacking in "Cop Out."

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