Will Ferrell is on form in this ludicrous comedy, but it is Mark Wahlberg who steals the show, writes DAMON SMITH
IT HAS been almost four years since Will Ferrell starred in Stranger Than Fiction, a film that could justifiably claim to be a comedy without arousing the suspicions of trading standards. Undeniably, he is a gifted mimic and with the right script, Ferrell can reduce an entire audience to helpless laughter.
However, with a reported $20million fee per film, making him one of the most expensive commodities in Hollywood, the leading man hardly seems good value for money when he serves up tripe including Land Of The Lost and Semi-Pro.
Thankfully, the Saturday Night Live stalwart rediscovers some of his lustre in The Other Guys (12a).
Directed and co-written by Adam McKay, who previously made Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, this intentionally ludicrous buddy cop movie pairs Ferrell with a hilariously self-mocking Mark Wahlberg.
Explosive action sequences collide with polished one-liners and some amusing supporting performances, like Michael Keaton as the beleaguered police chief, who has a second job to pay for his son's university education 'so he can explore his bisexuality and become a DJ'.
Detectives PK Highsmith (Samuel L Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) are the golden boys of the NYPD, monopolising newspaper headlines with their gung-ho antics.
When the two officers are sidelined, hot-headed Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) and his mild-mannered partner Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) vie with rival detectives Fosse (Damon Wayans Jr) and Martin (Rob Riggle) to lead the team.
"I'm a peacock. You've got to let me fly!" Terry implores Captain Gene Mauch (Keaton), desperate to be included on a case involving multi-millionaire David Ershon (Steve Coogan).
When his pleas fall on deaf ears, Terry drags Allen into the field with only a wooden replica gun for protection.
The Other Guys gets considerable mileage from several running jokes, including Terry's choice of car and his ability to pull insanely sexy women like his wife, Dr Sheila Gamble (Eva Mendes).
Wahlberg has a blast as the rogue cop with a short fuse and Ferrell brings out the sweetness and vulnerability of his clumsy oaf, who cheerfully reveals: "There are three things I love in this world - Kylie Minogue, the dimples in a woman's back above her buttocks and the fear in a man's eyes who knows I'm going to hurt him."
Coogan fares less well in a thankless supporting role.
The plot careens along at breakneck speed, unchaining itself from plausibility early on with the sudden and unexpected exits of Jackson and Johnson.
Gags hit more targets than they miss, which is a blessed relief, and we could cheerfully entertain another investigation for Terry and Allen in the future.