By Kyle | August 4, 2010
I like Will Ferrell. “Step Brothers,” “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”? Loved ’em. Loved “Elf.” Loved the way he shouted for “MEATLOAF, MA!” in “Wedding Crashers.” Now Willie’s all grown up and getting political! Uh-oh.
Ferrell made a short earlier this year in favor of ObamaCare in which he satirized “insurance company executives” as the bad guys — blissfully unaware, in his man-child way, that insurance company executives were in the pocket of the White House.
Now Ferrell and his writing partner/director Adam McKay think they have a really important message about capitalism. It’s so important that it interrupts, then takes over, then finally kills their (otherwise often very funny) new movie, “The Other Guys.”
The movie is being sold as (like “Hot Fuzz”) a mock-cop epic, and it is. Or it was, at some stage of the process. But Ferrell and McKay introduce an investment banker (Steve Coogan) who represents Evil Capitalism and is even shown shaking hands with George W. Bush (whom Ferrell has said he would refuse to meet with, on principle).
The Coogan character not only isn’t funny, but he becomes a bulletin board for Ferrell and McKay to post all of their bitter, half-understood notions about What’s Wrong With Wall Street. Like many idiots in the popular press, they are convinced that the Bernie Madoff scandal is somehow indicative of the way modern Wall Street crony capitalism works (when in fact it was a simple Ponzi scheme that could have happened anytime and has been happening for a century — but is relatively rare simply because of the inevitability of getting caught). The more the movie yammers on about pension schemes and misappropriated funds, the more you check your watch.
I’m not really in the school that says comedians shouldn’t be political; they can if they want. And Republicans and Wall Street are legitimate comedy targets. I’m not even in the school that says comedians shouldn’t try to keep things fresh by trying on dramatic or dark themes. But “The Other Guys” isn’t sharp political satire (like “In the Loop” or “Dr. Strangelove,” both of them very much lefty films.) It isn’t, like “Trading Places,” an astute (and believable) Preston Sturgess-esque melding of broad comedy with topical material. “The Other Guys” can’t figure out any interesting way to mix its outrage with laughs. Instead it is (for long stretches in the second half) simply a screechy, speechy, huffing, puffing bore.