The reason somebody gets to be a big-screen comedy star would appear to be fairly basic: He makes a lot of people laugh. But comedy is a funny business. Even when it's silly and bent, a blast of pure popcorn goofiness, it doesn't have to be just silly; it can express something quirky and resonant about the comedian in question - and, by extension, about us. Will Ferrell took an unfair lashing last summer for Land of the Lost (the movie was bad, but not nearly the catastrophe it was made out to be, and Ferrell, doing a naughty kiddie picture in the tradition of Elf, had his moments). You can feel him react to the spanking he got from the media in the flair and ambition of The Other Guys, a nerd-out-of-water destructo action comedy starring Ferrell as a New York police bureaucrat named Allen Gamble who's a ridiculously mild and persnickety fussbudget - an eager nobody who works as a paper pusher and, more than that, likes it. The movie is as antic and raucous and fun as any of the star's previous screen outings, only this one has a surprisingly personal flavor. It's Ferrell's richest riff yet on the comedy of conflicted aggression.
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