The face off is on the subject of lions and tuna, and it's totally loopy and moronic - and Ferrell and Wahlberg go at it with a fervor that's almost transcendentally absurd.
But then there are the jokes, and the riffs, that just go kerplunk. And kerplunk . . . kerplunk . . . kerplunk - a virtual hailstorm of comedy misfires and shtick gone awry.
McKay, working with a crew of legit action aces (the credits are full of veterans from the Bourne movies), mounts Grand Theft Auto chases, raging shootouts, and elaborate jewelry heists that would do Jerry Bruckheimer proud. But that's part of the problem: There's so much energy and effort applied to the conventions of the genre - and to a white-collar crime scenario involving a Wall Street titan played by Steve Coogan - that it subsumes the stuff the filmmakers set out to mock.
To wit, Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, who appear early on as New York City's celebrity crimebusters - a fearless, and fearlessly profane duo who will stop at nothing, not even the edge of a rooftop, in their efforts to catch the bad guys. Their guns-a-blazin' pursuit of a carload of perps is really no wilder or more ludicrous than what Agent Angelina gets up to on the streets of Washington, D.C., in Salt.
While most of The Other Guys focuses on Gamble and Hoitz and their initially cantankerous, ultimately empathetic relationship, Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes have work to do, as do a hovering troupe of putative funny men (including Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr.). Keaton is the no-nonsense departmental boss who moonlights at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Mendes, gamely sending up her screen persona, has been cast as Gamble's devoted, va-va-voom wife.
One of The Other Guys' running gags is that Ferrell's Gamble is, inexplicably, a babe magnet. Wahlberg's Hoitz, for one, can't get over it. The gag gets laughs at first, but then they work it over a few times, and a few times more, until it's been beaten to a bloodless pulp.
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/