In “The Other Guys,” Will Ferrell (“Step Brothers”) plays Allen Gamble, a straight-laced paper-pusher at the NYPD. He’s an accountant by trade — all too happy to sit at a desk all day and do the paperwork that other cops won’t do. His de facto partner, Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg, “The Happening”), however, is restless and yearns to be back out on the street. (Terry was once a rising hotshot in the NYPD, until he made a very unfortunate mistake while working security at the World Series. Let’s just say his nickname, “The Yankee Clipper,” is very fitting.)

“The Other Guys”

At Quality 16 and Rave

In a department dominated by two legendary super-cops — played by Dwayne Johnson (“Get Smart”) and Samuel L. Jackson (“Jumper”) — Allen and Terry are nothing more than the “other guys” in the room. But when the two big-shots are killed while responding to a bizarre jewelry store heist, the department needs someone else to step up. And so Allen and Terry make a valiant, hilarious attempt.

Considering how well they complement each other in this film, it’s somewhat surprising that Ferrell and Wahlberg have never worked together. Ferrell’s performance is calmer, saner and more likable than his usual fare — and interestingly, he’s funnier than usual, too. That he can be so entertaining while remaining upright and dressed comes as a surprise, given how used we’ve become to the “Semi-Pro,” “Talladega Nights” side of Ferrell.

Wahlberg — who can be a superb dramatic actor in the right role (“The Departed,” “Shooter” and “Four Brothers” are examples) — brings instead to this film a cartoonishly earnest, droll version of himself, similar to that portrayed by Andy Samberg in the “Saturday Night Live” sketches “Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals.” To his credit, Wahlberg has embraced the persona (which obviously began as a joke at his expense) and uses it here to create the perfect foil to Ferrell.

Given that its two stars add flairs of genuine humility to the comedic enterprise, “The Other Guys” rises above the generic buddy comedy. In a genre that produces an alarming number of duds each year, this is the rare film that manages to be as funny as its premise suggests. Like “The Hangover” last year, “Tropic Thunder” in 2008 and “Superbad” in 2007, “The Other Guys” is the one summer comedy that we’ll remember.

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