In the new comedy The Other Guys, P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) are the hard-charging, wise-cracking, ready-for-action top-cops of the NYPD. They're also the standard against which detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) — two underachievers more comfortable pushing pencils than cracking cases — are being compared ... and found to be severely wanting.
So when Gamble and Hoitz decide to step up their game and get back in the field, it's a decidedly mixed blessing. While there will always be a place in movies for the hyper-competent, isn't it more fun when the less-than-proficient step in? Here are our top 10 B-Teams — or should that be bottom 10?
10. The Bad News Bears (1976)
Steinbrenner would've fired the lot.
Remember kids: Who cares about winning Little League, so long as everyone's having fun? Uh, well, actually everybody cares. Which is the challenge for the less-than-motivated (hell, stinkin' drunk) coach Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau
), who's saddled with a misfit team. With the help of highly talented ringers (Tatum O'Neal
and Jackie Earle Haley
) the squad might just stand a chance. That's, of course, if they can keep the chubby catcher's eyes on the ball, rather than the concession stand.
9. Mystery Men (1999)
Jimmy Olson has a better chance of stopping a runaway freight train.
Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear
) may be beloved by Champion City, but honestly, he's sucking the heroism out of the air, leaving his associates with such "super" powers as "shovel finesse" (William H. Macy
), a knowledge of spoon-fu (Hank Azaria
), and the ability to get seriously pissed-off (Ben Stiller
). When the notorious Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush
) abducts Captain, this second-string trio must mount a rescue and save the city. At least they have help — the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo
), a woman who wields a (literally) mean bowling ball, and the Spleen (Paul Reubens
), a man who can break a toxic wind.
8. The Verdict (1982)
And you thought defending Hell's Kitchen was a lost cause.
Your typical shyster, when negotiating a client's settlement, would likely consider an offer in the low six figures a gift from the gods. The frequently drunk ambulance chaser Frank Galvin (Paul Newman
) typically would, too. But something about his latest (and only) client — a young mother in a coma due to botched anesthesia — has tripped a conscience switch in his brain. Problem is, this lone, out-of-practice lawyer has to face down a well-funded legal team, the Boston diocese that runs the hospital, and a judicial establishment that ironically has no time for just causes.
7. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
He's being courted by the firm of Stugats, Fongool, and Fuhgeddaboudit.
Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci
) just recently passed the bar, has no trial experience, and now has to defend his cousin Billy (Ralph Macchio
) and Billy's friend Stan (Mitchell Whitfield
) against murder charges. Even worse? He has to do it in the deeply southern environs of Beechum County, Alabama, where his wardrobe baffles the locals and his Brooklynese fails to impress the condescending judge (Fred Gwynne
). And since Martin Scorsese
isn't directing, this is one problem that won't be resolved by cracking a few ribs.
6. Executive Decision (1996)
It's like asking a high school chess club to track down bin Laden.
In the new math of action movies, two nerds equal one action hero. Thus, when a strike force attempting the mid-air rescue of a hijacked airliner gets its two-fisted, gung-ho leader (Steven Seagal
!) sucked away during a plane-to-plane transfer, it falls to two taggers-along — desk-bound and peculiarly tuxedoed researcher (Kurt Russell
) and an owlish engineer (Oliver Platt
) — to pick up his slack. If they fail, no problem, the Army can always shoot down the plane with its 400 innocent passengers.
5. The Goonies (1985)
Not even Dolby Digital is going to help these kids.
For this group of outcasts, a treasure hunt is an almost irresistible challenge. But here, finding the notorious pirate One-Eyed Willie's hidden plunder would let them rescue their parents' homes from foreclosure — more than enough motivation. Thing is, they are
just kids and there's a booty-seeking criminal clan after the treasure, not to mention a series of booby-traps set by ol' Willie that seem to have been transported directly from the Temple of Doom. And, oh yeah, they all sound like they've got a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
4. Mystery Team (2009)
They'd be more credible without the Schwinns.
Back in their tweens, the Mystery Team (D.C. Pierson
as the brains, Dominic Dierkes
as the brawn, Donald Glover
as the master of disguise) were their town's go-to force for finding stolen lunch money or abducted puppies. In an attempt to reclaim that glory, they're taking on a double murder. The case shows ambition, if not good judgment. Face it, when you're dealing with remorseless drug dealers and evil industrialists, all the trivia, action-hero poses, and false mustaches in the world aren't much help.
3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
You could say they misunderestimated him.
Leave it to the nation's capital to plumb new depths of cynicism: When a veteran senator dies, Jefferson Smith (James Stewart
) is tapped as his replacement. Why? The political machine wants to fill the seat with someone good-natured and naïve enough to be easily manipulated. But Smith isn't as malleable as his mentors anticipated. Having proven his mettle by attempting a one-man filibuster, the question becomes whether the junior Senator has enough strength to endure the Big Boys's major artillery, which includes a Breitbart-worthy mail-in campaign demanding his ouster.
2. Rocky (1976)
Those museum steps are a metaphor, right?
When it comes to pure patriotism, consider Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers
). In Philadelphia for a championship bout, the boxer decides to demonstrate his love of America's birthplace by beating up on a local boy. He settles on Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone
), a palooka for whom the words "Yer a bum
" seem to be playing on a permanent, mental loop. Creed clearly outmatches Rocky in boxing prowess and marketing skill (if not fashion sense). But Rocky has two things on his side, the love of a good woman (Talia Shire
) and the emotional one-two that is "Gonna Fly Now."