Film Review: The Other Guys

20/09/2010

The Other Guys is not as funny as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. That is not to say it isn’t a decent comedy, but merely that it does not reach the peaks of hilarity of Adam McKay’s 2004 film. Contending with the likes of Date Night and Dinner for Schmucks, however, The Other Guys becomes one of the better comedies of 2010.

Detective Terry Hoitz is sick of doing paperwork for hero cops Highsmith and Danson. When the opportunity arises, Hoitz and his reluctant partner Allen Gamble attempt to fill their shoes, but things don’t go according to plan…

 The Other Guys combines elements of the buddy cop movie, comedy and action to produce a very entertaining film. Whilst the narrative is linear and fairly predictable, the film amuses sufficiently so that this is not a problem. For example, juxtaposing a headstrong, aggressive cop with a goofy and more placid partner is not highly original, yet the relationship works due to a good script and chemistry between the pair.

The Other Guys is successful because of the various strands of humour at play. On a surface level, the antagonism (intentional or not) of Gamble towards Hoitz, and Hoitz reaction to this is a great source of amusement, particularly in the first half of the film. Elsewhere, the humour is sometimes juvenile but good fun nonetheless. The multiple references featured in the film (everything from Derek Jeter to Enron to Star Wars) are also a site for comedy, although sadly a number of these may be lost on some audience members. Finally, The Other Guys works well in the way in the way it skewers the conventions of the action and crime film. Hardened cop Hoitz has become adept in ballet only to make fun of the kids who took ballet, whilst Captain Gene Mauch also works a part-time job in retail.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg work well as the odd couple, with Wahlberg sending up his alpha male image. Eva Mendes performs well as Gamble’s unlikely wife. The Other Guys provides a welcome return to the mainstream for Michael Keaton, whose flair for comedy remains as strong as ever.

Coming at the end of a season bereft of good comedies, The Other Guys is an excellent caper; perfect if you want to switch your brain off and have a few laughs.

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Film Review: Dinner for Schmucks

11/09/2010

What do you get when you cross Jay Roach, the director of Meet the Parents, with actors Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis? Dinner for Schmucks, a comedy that is only sporadically funny, and ultimately disappoints.

In order to achieve a big promotion at work, Tim needs to find an idiot to bring to his boss’ dinner party. After bumping into an unusual guy called Barry, Tim thinks he has found the perfect guest, little realising the impact Barry will have on his life…

Like many others, Dinner for Schmucks is a film that attempts to straddle humour with a more heartfelt narrative. Thanks to the performances of Rudd and Carell, the emotion seems genuine, yet the comedy is lacking in comparison. Surprising, considering the talent involved in the film. Whilst there are some laughs to be had, the film does not live up to expectations. The climactic scene, in particular, should have been much more humorous than it is.

As Barry, Carell is amusing, and elicits sympathy in the film’s more serious moments. However, some of the humour from this character falls flat, and he occasionally comes across as annoying. The most humorous characters in the film are Therman (played by Galifianakis) and artist Kieran (Jermaine Clement). Therman is comical in how serious he takes himself, whilst Kieran is often hilarious as the larger-than-life artist interested in Tim’s girlfriend. In a minor role, David Walliams is not as amusing as perhaps the filmmakers intended.

The film’s title sequence depicts the mice artworks (Barry’s hobby) being assembled with pain-staking detail. Accompanied by Theodore Shapiro’s lovely score, this introduction gives the impression of an offbeat, quirky little movie. The marketing for Dinner for Schmucks would suggest a raucous comedy. The end result in fact is neither of these; it is a comedy that fails to be consistently funny.

Furthermore, the message of the film conflicts too overtly with the aim. Whilst on the one hand the audience is supposed to laugh at the peculiarities of Barry, on the other we are told that it is wrong to make fun of people who are a bit different. Had Dinner for Schmucks decided to plump for just one of these opinions (either that it is fine to laugh at others, or that it is wrong), it may have been a better film.

Ultimately, however, Dinner for Schmucks showcases a range of comedic talent let down by a lacklustre script.