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THE RIGHT WAY TO DO A BUDDY COP MOVIE


Reel Time
Dale Hill
www.flickwitch.com

            Stick around for the closing credits of “The Other Guys” because they're accompanied by really sharp graphics that illustrate a few facets of the current economic meltdown, such as Ponzi schemes, post-bail-out bonuses for AIG executives, and a few examples of CEO salaries.

            This is a great coda for the latest movie by Adam McKay, in which Steve Coogan plays David Ershon, a slimy, glib CEO who owns 18 Lamborghinis and a Subaru station wagon, and is about to bankrupt several thousand people to cover up his own criminal behavior. “I'll give you each a million dollars if you'll drop the investigation,” he says to two cops, adding “This is not a bribe.”

            Like McKay's “Talledega Nights,” this is a very smart movie with lots of belly laughs. In a cinematic summer that hasn't seen a whole lot of first-rate comic invention, it's a great way to slip back into your autumnal or academic routine.

            As well as a witty script that keeps the story pelting along, McKay provides his trademark comic set pieces, such as a massive brawl that's conducted entirely in whispers because it's at a funeral reception. As it's broken up, one of the scrappers sub-vocalizes:“Yo, next time, me – you – library!”

            And there's a technically brilliant scene that may be a first, which I will call a petrified montage, in which a slo-mo camera pans through a scene frozen in mid-action, as the heroes get Yeltsin-drunk at a sleazy bar. It may be the most impressive single shot I've seen since DeMille parted the Red Sea.

            About ten minutes into “The Other Guys” Will Ferrell launches into a rapid-fire riff on the subject of schools of tuna stalking prides of lions on the African veldt, to which Mark Wahlberg responds with an incredulous stare that is so much more eloquent than the words, “Am I really hearing what I think I'm hearing?” Ferrell and Wahlberg are office-bound NYC cop partners who get no respect from their colleagues, especially the Big Apple's Star Cops, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson, who have more fun than the law allows, you should pardon the expression, during their comparatively short screen time.

            But the Big Guys exit the action early on during an absolutely spectacular burst of testosterone-fueled misjudgment, leaving the inept “Other Guys” to take to the mean streets.

            Terry (Wahlberg) is the bantam rooster (peacock, actually, in his own words) wannabe who is mortified at partnering Allen (Ferrell) who is a forensic accountant, fer cryin' out loud. “At age eleven I audited my parents,” Allen admits.

            Terry is further humiliated by having to ride in Allen's Prius in pursuit, not of violent perps, but of a scaffolding permit violation. By the law of the Slow Reveal, the permit snafu leads them deeper and deeper into complex, nefarious plots.

            I don't always love Ferrell (one-note comedy) or Wahlberg (one-note emotions) but here they're perfectly cast as slightly crazed but well-meaning schlubs who get on each other's very last nerve. Naturally nobody believes that they're onto anything important, and they're constantly slapped down by their Captain (Michael Keaton underplaying deliciously), who has to moonlight as a manager at Bed, Bath and Beyond to keep his kid in college.

            The sight of a police captain in a blue apron pushing bath mats, like a lot of the jokes in this movie, is not quite enough to make you forget that a lot of the jokes in this movie are based on the lousy economy, and the leaders of the giant corporations that will stomp on entire populations to boost their bottom line. It's almost enough to turn innocent moviegoers into Commie-Pinko-Anarcho-Revolutionaries, if we weren't assured that there will always be a few bumbling but courageous whistle-blowers to make sure things come out OK. (That's how you know it's a movie.)