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Jason Wallis Star power not enough to save ‘The Other Guys’

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Posted: Saturday, August 14, 2010 12:00 am

This weekend saw the releases of “The Expendables” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” the final two “event” movies of Summer 2010. One or both will be reviewed next week, followed by looks at “Piranha 3D” (behold, the triumphant reunion of Elizabeth Shue and Christopher Lloyd!) and then “Centurion” to finish out the season ahead of the George Clooney vehicle “The American.”

Not the greatest roster, perhaps, but it’s certainly more promising than what we’ve been getting lately. “The Other Guys,” the new comedy from director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell, proudly continues this season’s pattern of disappointment by consistently failing to live up to its potential, and frankly, at this point, it’s hard to get angry. This kind of thing has become the standard, and so we as moviegoers are left to wander a desolate wasteland of recycled screenplays and failed remakes — alone, afraid, and praying for that rare reprieve from the onslaught of sheer mediocrity. Get used to it, I guess.

“The Other Guys” suffers from the same central problem that has plagued many movies this summer, including last week’s “Dinner for Schmucks.” Like that film, this one offers up a decent concept and a talented comedic duo to shoulder most of the weight, only to see the whole thing fall apart on account of a too-long screenplay that rarely rises to the level of the performers enacting it.

In fact, the screenwriters (McKay and television vet Chris Henchy) don’t even appear to be trying here, preferring instead to assume that audiences will laugh at literally anything, just so long as it involves Will Ferrell. And while Ferrell is an innately funny guy, it was unwise of McKay to defer his responsibilities to such a degree. Instead of the irreverent, high-octane action-comedy we were promised, what we’re left with is an only-occasionally-witty buddy flick that wears out its welcome quite quickly.

Ferrell stars as Det. Allen Gamble, a ridiculously mild-mannered New York City cop who, along with his partner, Det. Terry Hoitz  (Mark Wahlberg), serves as the laughing stock of the entire force. While their colleagues are off playing hero by getting in high-speed car chases and shootouts, Gamble and Hoitz are left to sulk in the office, completing other people’s paperwork.

The joke, you see, is that Gamble is perfectly at peace with his dull and meaningless existence, and in fact prefers things that way. Hoitz longs to return to his more exciting days (before an accidental shooting wrecked his career), but Gamble goes out of his way to avoid conflict and any semblance of danger. So when the two become embroiled in an international financial fraud conspiracy that is too complicated and ultimately irrelevant to describe here, you can bet that wacky buddy-cop hijinx will ensue.

Ferrell and director McKay have teamed up several times before, and their prior efforts “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Step-Brothers” all have one other thing in common: While hit-and-miss themselves, they’re all significantly better than “The Other Guys.” Whereas those movies were filled with good-natured goofiness that once in a while bordered on genius, this one feels tired and obligatory, as if nobody had any really good, fully formed ideas but decided to make a movie anyway. Just throw Ferrell out in front of the camera and everything will work itself out, right? Not this time.

The end of 007?

Stocks and Bonds: The end of an era?

So… I guess James Bond is dead? We’ve been hearing of his demise for the past six months or so, what with MGM being billions of dollars in debt and all, but I suppose I simply never thought the picture would get this bleak for the world’s single most durable movie franchise. I’m sure you all caught the cover story of Entertainment Weekly last week: Unless something absolutely miraculous happens, we won’t see another 007 entry for a long, long time — if ever.

Now, if this breakdown had occurred after Pierce Brosnan had stepped down as Bond, people might not be so upset. But after “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” reinvigorated the series with a harder, more serious edge, and Daniel Craig stepped up to immediately become the Best Bond Ever, it’s much more difficult to see it go. We were at a point of such great promise, with Oscar-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Jarhead”) attached to direct the next outing from a screenplay by two-time Oscar nominee Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon,” “The Last King of Scotland”), with Michael Sheen reportedly in talks to play Bond’s arch-nemesis Ernst Blofeld.

The whole franchise could have become a showcase for different auteurs to offer their own interpretation of the character and his universe — aren’t you curious what a Matthew Vaughn, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuaron, Darren Arronofsky, Alejandro Gonzalez-Innaritu, Kevin MacDonald, Nicolas Winding Refn, Zack Snyder or Quentin Tarantino-helmed 007 movie would look like (just to name a few)? Alas, even though the last two Bond films grossed more than a billion dollars in combined worldwide ticket sales, typical studio BS will probably result in the rights being be stuck in limbo for years, if not decades. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This is why we can’t have nice things.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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