The story of geeky underdogs rising to the occasion and proving themselves to be heroes isn’t a particularly new idea… but when the losers in question are none other than the hilariously mismatched Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, well, then you’ve got something.

The Other Guys takes everything you’ve seen in buddy-cop movies (Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, and this year’s atrocious Cop Out) and turns it on its head, and the result is one of the funniest action-comedies of the summer.

Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, an NYPD forensic accountant who’s content to just sit at his desk doing paperwork and be the butt of practical jokes. His partner, Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) is also a desk jockey, the result of his accidentally shooting… well, let’s just say it’s someone who you really shouldn’t shoot if you expect to keep working in New York. The two of them are a far cry from the department’s beloved Super Cops, Highsmith and Danson (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson)– who burn up the streets (literally) in a vintage Camaro SS and can somehow cause $12 million in property damage over a measly bag of pot… and still get the keys to the city.

It’s only when Gamble and Hoitz stumble on a case that turns out to be bigger than either of them imagined, that they realize they might just have a chance to become Super Cops themselves.

The case itself isn’t really important (in fact, I’m still not sure I completely understand it). What really makes the movie is how well Ferrell and Wahlberg play off each other from the word ‘go’. Calling The Other Guys a buddy-cop movie implies that Gamble and Hoitz are buddies, but Hoitz’ utter distaste for his partner turns what could have been a clich├ęd genre flick into a fresh, funny romp. Everything, from Gamble’s car (a decidedly un-suave Toyota Prius) to his taste in music (which Hoitz says makes him ‘feel like he’s going shopping for a training bra’) provides so much opportunity for ridicule (and spot-on deadpan comedy) that the end-result is a swift kick in the pants to a comparatively dull summer movie season.

Along with the interplay between Ferrell and Wahlberg, The Other Guys is also chock-full of hilarious, isolated moments (a visit to Gamble’s psycho ex-girlfriend, a night of singing in an Irish tavern, a gift of a goofy coffee mug). By themselves, each scene is comedy gold, but director and co-writer Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers) puts them all together and creates something even better– a smart, entertaining movie that keeps you laughing ’til the end.

Special mention also goes to Eva Mendes as Gamble’s wicked-hot wife (though Gamble is hilariously oblivious to the hotness) and to sight-for-sore-eyes Michael Keaton as the guys’ captain (who moonlights as a manager at the local Bed, Bath & Beyond).

Car chases, shootouts, smart comedy, and the best odd-couple chemistry since Russell Brand and Jonah Hill in Get Him to the Greek– you can do a lot worse than The Other Guys.

…and whatever you do, don’t leave once the credits start rolling. Stick around for the full version of “Pimps Don’t Cry”, which is already my pick for the Best Original Song Oscar, (hey– if “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” can win…) as well as a great extended scene.

4/5 stars