The Other Guys

The new film from Adam McKay—director of Anchorman, Telladega Nights and Step Brothers, not to mention long-time writer at Saturday Night Live, and head honcho of—is energetic, laugh-out-loud funny, and unexpectedly smart.

It’s one half a parody of ’80s buddy-cop movies, and one half pure farce, and stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as an unlikely duo who step into the shoes of the NYPD’s heroic two best men (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) who die at the start of the film in hilarious circumstances. (They were so badass that, Chuck Norris-style, they didn’t get tattoos—other people got tattoos of them.)

Ferrell, the precinct’s straight-laced accountant with an inexplicably bangin’ wife (Eva Mendes), uncovers a plot by a corrupt British businessman (Steve Coogan) to funnel cash into a slap-dash Ponzi scheme, and follows his instincts. A really old-looking Michael Keaton pops up as the police chief, and incessantly quotes TLC, all the while insisting that he has no idea who they were. Still, he’s insistent that he don’t want no scrub. There’s a motion-capture CGI scene in a bar that uses Philips ‘Carousel’ technology to achieve bullet-time like effects that are almost as amazing as those in Inception.

Basically this is Lethal Weapon or Miami Vice meets Anchorman, and it’s definitely Will Ferrell’s best work since that film. The jokes aren’t quite as good as most of what Ron Burgundy had at his disposal, and the film peters out a bit in its third act, but the narrative is more coherent, and surprisingly wittier, than expected—like when officers tell Ferrell they’ve recovered his Prius: it was trying to vote for Ralph Nader. (Some one-liners will be quoted for a long time to come, and one gag, “If I were a Lion and you were a Tuna,” is worth watching on its own.)

Be sure to stay through the closing titles for a whole bunch of (well-researched but completely incongruous) infographics about the Global Financial Crisis, corporate malfeasance and disproportionate CEO salaries—unfortunately soundtracked by Rage Against the Machine’s cover of “Maggie’s Farm”—and a blooper in a Chinese restaurant tacked onto the tail end.

Opens Thursday week.