© 2010 Ray Wong
Buddy cop flicks are a staple in cinema, and the last buddy comedy that hit the spot was Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan's Cop Out just a few months ago. Is it too early for another? Will Ferrell would like us to think not.
Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) is a paper pusher at the NYPD and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) is his partner after being demoted from homicide because he "accidentally" shot Derek Jeter. The two belong to the lowest rung while working under the shadow of super cops PK Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson). After Highsmith and Danson were killed in the line of duty, however, everyone at the department wants to take over their places as New York's celebrity officers. Not Gamble or Hoitz, though, who just want to do their job.
Gamble and Hoitz also don't get along. Gamble is a soft-spoken, intellectual, naive guy with no social skills, and Hoitz is a hot-blooded cop in need of anger management. They're like oil and water, and yet they begin to know more about each other and decide to work together so they can get out of their respective ruts.
Gamble is working on a white-collar case involving an investor named David Ershon (Steve Coogan). Hoitz reluctantly tags along, believing they're chasing after a small petty crime. But they soon find out there's more to Ershon than what meets the eye. Apparently, Ershon has lost a lot of money for his clients and is about to conduct the largest Ponzi scheme in history to cover his tracks. But Gamble and Hoitz lack evidence to convince their boss, Captain Gene Mauch (Michael Keaton), to let them take on the case.
Will Ferrell (Megamind) is in dire need of a comedic hit. His last cinematic outing was the disastrous Land of the Lost. But Ferrell seems to be ready for his "comeback" with two back-to-back comedies: The Other Guys and Megamind. Here, he's back to his root by playing a quirky everyman, which fits him like a glove. Ferrell is the funniest when he plays lovable, earnest but clueless. He's done very well with such roles in Elf, Anchorman or Stranger Than Fiction.
Ferrell also seems to do better with a worthy partner in crime, and he finds one in Mark Wahlberg, who can't be more different than Ferrell. Wahlberg's has grown as an actor, whether in a drama (The Lovely Bones) or comedy (Date Night). As the hotheaded Hoitz, Wahlberg is peanut butter to Ferrell's jelly. They compliment each other well, with enough bickering to make any gay couple -- ahem, I mean buddy cops -- proud.
Michael Keaton (Toy Story 3) is also back with his goofy charm as Captain Mauch. A wink here and a smirk there, Keaton is in top comedic form and serves well as the third banana to Ferrell and Wahlberg's dynamic duo. Eva Mendes (The Bad Lieutenant) is hilarious as Gamble's gorgeous and devoted wife. She has some of the best spit-inducing lines and she does it with such a lack of self-consciousness that she's one future comedic goddess to watch.
Steve Coogan (Marmaduke), however, feels a bit lost in the ensemble cast. He still has that cocky, smirky quality in his performance but he never rises above what's on the page and is often overshadowed by his cast. Ray Stevenson (The Book of Eli) is excellently menacing as Wesley, the guy behind Ershon's schemes. Samuel L. Jackson (Iron Man 2) and Dwayne Johnson (Tooth Fairy) have some brief but hilarious screen times as a pair of super cops, and they have one of the best and absurd death scenes in films.
Written by writer-director Adam McKay (Talladega Nights) and Chris Henchy (Entourage), the screenplay is rather a hodgepodge of comedic bits and character development, and somewhat lacking in the plot department. The best parts of the screenplay are the characters and their relationships. McKay and Henchy did a fine job with these colorful characters, whose relationships with one another feel real and genuine even though they're often funny. The dialogue is very funny, and there are many hilarious bits.
But that's part of the problem: the movie is uneven. Not every joke works, and when it doesn't, the movie drags because there really isn't much of a plot to support the story. The main plot is thin and the subplots are all over the map. The whole thing lacks coherence and at times it feels more like an episodic TV show (and it's understandable since both writers have done extensive TV work). I feel like I'm watching a few episodes of a buddy cop show sewn together. Remember Starsky & Hutch?
Part of that is also due to McKay's direction. The pace is a little slow at places, and there's a nagging "TV movie" feel to it. The best part of the movie belongs to Jackson and Johnson -- their over-the-top scenes together are hilarious and well put-together. The rest of the film feels lacking after that opening. However, Ferrell and Wahlberg's performances and chemistry save the film and make it more enjoyable than it should be. I can't think of other guys playing those characters.
Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Adam McKay, Chris Henchy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and drugs
Running Time: 107 minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 7.4 out of 10