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As I wrote when Avatar came out, it seems futile to me for a filmmaker to try to embed an anti-corporate message in a film whose very financing and distribution are dependent on corporate largess. The bells and whistles of mainstream film production and marketing tend to overwhelm whatever message in the film runs counter to the complacent passivity that we’ve learned to ingest along with our popcorn. Nonetheless, give credit to The Other Guys for trying to drop some education about our current financial mess into what’s an otherwise deliberately absurd and silly Will Ferrell comedy.
Director/co-writer Adam McKay saves most of the critique for the end credits (embedded above), about which I’ve written extensively in this post at Moviefone. But he also gets a few subtler digs in during the film itself, in which NYPD detectives Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg pursue a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi schemer, played by Steve Coogan. (Spoilers follow.) Coogan’s character is also pursued by institutional investors who’ve lost billions, and who’ll stop at nothing, no matter how violent or illegal, to get their money back. Coogan is forced to find a new pigeon to make up the losses; that pigeon turns out to be the NYPD pension fund. Ferrell and Wahlberg foil the scheme and save their pensions, but Coogan’s biggest institutional client gets its money back anyway through a government bailout because it’s deemed too big to fail. So instead of looting one small union, the company gets to steal from every taxpayer in America. (End spoilers.) There’s also a bit where Ferrell meets with the Securities and Exchange Commission and casually rattles off a list of all the big Wall Street ripoffs the SEC failed to avert over the last decade, from Enron to WorldCom to Madoff to AIG. This got a big laugh from the audience I saw the movie with. People may not grasp the details of how they’ve been screwed over, but they know that someone was asleep as the foxes raided the henhouse over and over. Continue reading