Missy Schwartz
February 16, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Tom Cruise, comic actor? We’re not joking. He’s set to team up with longtime pal Ben Stiller in 20th Century Fox’s The Hardy Men, a humorous take on the classic novels about teenage detectives. Directed by Shawn Levy (who helped turn Stiller’s Night at the Museum into a $232 million smash), the movie will follow Cruise and Stiller’s grown-up, estranged sleuths as they reunite to crack one final case.

Stiller in a buddy flick makes sense. But again…Cruise? Levy got the casting idea as he noticed Stiller taking calls from Cruise during Museum. He remembered their Mission: Impossible spoof from 2000’s MTV Movie Awards, with Stiller playing Cruise’s stunt double. He then learned of the Hardy script. Lightbulb: ”They’d be awesome playing brothers.” A recent three-hour brainstorming session — during which the actors improvised arguments over ”everything from who the murderer is to ‘Why did you just drink that orange juice from the carton?!”’ — convinced all parties that the chemistry is there. But Levy wants to make one thing clear: Men, which is still in development, won’t be a slapsticky farce à la Starsky & Hutch. ”We want to make a kick-ass action comedy with elements of Midnight Run and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, where the characters are real,” he explains. ”Prior drafts had shades of [parody]. This version is more grounded in sibling rivalry.” And if audiences take to the new, lighter Cruise, he might get the last Hardy har-har after all.

Men at Work
Three more upcoming projects from Cruise and Stiller:

(Oct. 5) Stiller plays a newlywed who falls for another woman on his honeymoon in this update of The Heartbreak Kid.

(Nov. 7, 2008) Stiller’s Alex the Lion reunites with his family in Africa.

(TBA) Cruise stars as a congressman who encounters Meryl Streep’s reporter. (Additional reporting by Steve Daly)

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