Rant: Mark Wahlberg Is Not That Funny, And We Need To Stop Telling Him He Is
In the first phase of Mark Wahlberg's screen career, we were just amazed he could act, period. The man who had once roamed the world with his own funky bunch should have been laughed out of Hollywood like every other rapper-turned-actor, but he showed up in Boogie Nights playing the gradually less insecure and young Dirk Diggler, and an actual movie star was born.
In many ways he's still that same stern-jawed, dead-serious movie star, but a second phase of Mark Wahlberg's career has been going on for a few years now, starting with I Heart Huckabees, dipping into his Oscar-nominated turn in The Departed, ramping up with a cameo in Date Night and now culminating in The Other Guys. This phase is "Mark Wahlberg: Comedian," and this phase needs to end immediately before the damage continues.
It was fun when we were all discovering Wahlberg's latent sense of humor, watching him pop up as a supporting character in Huckabees or The Departed with crack comic timing, or even parody himself on SNL as a good-humored response to Andy Samberg's brilliant Mark Wahlberg Talks To Animals. But Samberg was on to something in that skit that we all chose to ignore. We laugh with Wahlberg when he's playing off his trademark intensity, but we laugh at him when he doesn't realize he's still being way too intense to be funny. The way he talks to the chicken? That's how he talks to everyone in the scene with him in all of his comedies, and it's been funny this whole time because we never put up with it for longer than a minute-long bit in a scene.
But now there's The Other Guys, the first time Wahlberg has been bumped up to second-billed comedian, and in his defense, he doesn't kill the movie entirely. The Other Guys is funny throughout and Wahlberg does what he can, playing a hothead cop-- well, duh-- who also has a penchant for dancing and constantly proclaims he's a peacock who needs to fly. But there's something about Wahlberg that's just off throughout the whole movie, holding jokes out too long or jumping into retorts too quickly, always feeling on the wrong foot against Will Ferrell's well-honed comic timing. The best joke is the mere idea that Mark Wahlberg is playing Will Ferrell's partner, and from there it's a series of diminishing returns as he attempts to combine action-hero skills with the goofy, ready-for-anything energy of an Adam McKay movie.
It's not Mark Wahlberg's fault that he isn't as funny as we want him to be. It would be an extraordinary stroke of luck for someone to be a competent musician, actor and comedian at the same time, and he really is pretty funny when kept in the background and given enough good lines to say. But as good as The Other Guys is without him, it really needs to be a sign that Wahlberg's short-lived career as comedic leading man is over. He gave it a shot, it didn't work out, what are you gonna do? He'll do just fine without more opportunities to pour coffee on Will Ferrell for an entire movie. In fact, if he pops up for 5 minutes in the next Ferrell-McKay movie to do just that, it'll be the best of both worlds-- just a little bit of Wahlberg, who knows when to step back and let the comedy professionals take over.
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