(Columbia; 107 minutes; PG-13; widescreen; 2010). Buddy cop flicks already boast plenty of clichés, and spoofs of buddy cop flicks have even more, as they kid the conventions of the original to the ultimate extreme: The chase sequences have to be more explosively bigger, the gun battles more ferocious, the macho repartee more obvious. So leave it to anything-goes comic star Will Ferrell and his frequent auteurist partner Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers) to go for more gusto in this loudand-proud rambunctious outing, albeit with some welcome twists along the way.
As you might expect from the Ferrell- McKay resume, they’re not all that keen on maintaining a coherent plot, which instead becomes something of a clothesline from which they can hang various bits of business. The film’s erstwhile villain is a Manhattan investment banker (played by Steve Coogan) who is actually a clueless boob manipulated by bigger fish. And Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are also in the movie (for a while, anyway) as a pair of Big Apple super cops who fail to realize the limits of their supposed bulletproof-ness.
With those crime busters out of the way, that gives the opportunity for NYPD paperpushing detectives Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Holtz (Mark Wahlberg) to prove their mettle, but these partners need to get along first. The bespectacled Gamble is a straightarrow by-the-booker who is perfectly home at a desk job, while the antsy Holtz is a man with a past (Yankees fans will get a kick out of one crucial flashback) who nevertheless craves action on the mean streets. Dialogue exchanges display their truly odd coupling: Holtz: “As a little kid, didn’t you dress up and play cops and robbers?” Gamble: “I’ll tell you what I did as a little kid. I went to school and I made my bed and at age 11 I audited my parents. And believe me, there were some discrepancies and I got grounded.”
The Other Guys’ most clever move is that the machismo salt-and-pepper cop flicks of yesteryear are succinctly satirized in the first reel, but then it switches to an extended parody of Laurel and Hardy. Ferrell goes against his usual type by playing a button-down buffoon, while Wahlberg takes his pugnacious cue from Leo Gorcey’s Bowery Boys output. So it’s funny to witness Ferrell’s character milking gags until they’re dust a la Jerry Lewis, much to Wahlberg’s apoplectic consternation, as he delivers frequent veins-popping slow burns worthy of Edgar Kennedy.
McKay gets other components of this overworked genre down pat, including shots of the skyscrapered skyline as visual segues between scenes and in-your-face car-crash sequences reminiscent of the destructive dementia found in Freebie and the Bean (1974). Yet there’s also room for endless amounts of silliness, most notably the casting of Eva Mendes as Gamble’s too-hot-for-him wife; it’s a gag played for maximum laughs (Wahlberg’s Holtz can’t stop drooling over her), unlike another recent casting call played at face value in Grown Ups, which asked moviegoers to believe that Salma Hayek could actually play Adam Sandler’s spouse.
More wit is mined by Michael Keaton’s amusing overhaul of the traditional police captain role, while a host of inspired visuals (a wrestling match at a funeral, a night of boozy carousing) flesh out the relaxed running time until the next plot point gets delivered. And the end credits offer animated graphics on how Ponzi schemes, bailouts and Bernie Madoff have screwed Joe Taxpayer, a note of sobriety that is not expected in a big-budget disposable no-brainer. By the way, that’s director McKay as a hobo named Dirty Mike during one of the film’s more vulgar, yet shamelessly hilarious, interludes.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment offers The Other Guys in two separate DVD incarnations: the theatrical 107-minute version, plus a different disc that piggy-backs the original with an unrated 116-minute cut. To be sure, the multiplex version already seemed a tad longish, although the unrated’s extra nine minutes boast some sideline pleasures, and not just for Derek Jeter fans, either. Several raunchy scenes have been retrieved from the cutting-room floor, such as a different joke that has been replaced after the closing credits, while some dialogue has been substituted to appease the ratings board’s censors. In one scene, viewers can decide whether the unrated’s reference to a deer vagina is funnier than the PG-13’s option concerning “a baby mouse in a used condom.”
The DVD is letterboxed at a 2.40:1 ratio that accentuates the slam-bang widescreen mayhem, but there is no commentary track. Extras include five scenes in the deletedextended category totaling seven minutes. A 10-minute vignette titled “Crash and Burn” details how the stunt crew did their jobs at numerous New York City locations, with a how-they-did-it segment concerning the special effects required to plow an airborne Chevelle into a Trump Tower lobby. And the four-minute “Bed, Bath and Way Beyond” offers a salute to the improv skills of Michael Keaton, with outtakes that showcase his gruff cop character moonlighting as a departmentstore manager.
Flipped. (Warner Bros.; 90 minutes; PG; 90 minutes). If a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear it? For that matter, if a movie opens with zilch promotion in limited release from its releasing company, does anyone see it? That was the preordained fate for this winsome character study about adolescents in puppy-love mode, as it follows the bumpy relationship between Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and new-gal-next-door Juli (Madeline Carroll) from second grade to junior high. The gimmick here is that key moments in the friendship are presented from each viewpoint, which occasionally makes the film play like a cross between Rashomon and The Wonder Years.
Despite a pedigree that included noted director Rob Reiner, who worked on this adaptation of the acclaimed 2001 young-adult novel by Wendelin Van Draanen, Warner Bros. got cold feet and scotched the film’s planned late-summer release. Big Hollywood studios accustomed to pushing the next mega-movie are no longer capable of handling small, indie-like items like the $14 million-budgeted Flipped, which inevitably flopped at the box office when it could no longer secure playdates. (It was part of an October triple bill at Minetto’s Midway Drive-In, the closest that Flipped came to Central New York moviegoers.)
Reiner’s resume as a go-to director of mainstream fare had a solid run of about 10 years during the late 1980s and early 1990s, with hits like When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, The American President and Misery. Unfortunately, even his directorial skills couldn’t save outright misfires such as North (1994) and generic filler including Alex & Emma and Rumor Has It. Perhaps Reiner viewed Flipped as an attempt to return to his earlier coming-of-age triumph Stand By Me (1986), albeit without the Stephen King tropes. He films this yarn with a hazy early- 1960s backdrop, and the need for nostalgia as a cinematic crutch sometimes gets in the way of the low-key action.
Yet the overall earnestness of Reiner’s obvious labor of love always comes through, with quite appealing performances from the young leads and adroit supporting work from John Mahoney (perfect as the grandpa we’d all like to have), Anthony Edwards (surprisingly nasty during a drunken dinner spat) and Aidan Quinn and Penelope Ann Miller as Juli’s put-upon parents. Warner Home Video quickly issued Flipped as a DVD (unseen by these peepers), with just a few making-of extras and no commentary track, which is probably just as well considering that Reiner would not have many nice things to say regarding his movie’s marketing mistreatment.
Bad cop, worst cop: Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell as The Other Guys.
Sycamore sweeties: Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll in Flipped.