A sort of hip-hop Abbott & Costello, Doctor Dre and Ed Lover are hosts of the MTV rap program, "Yo! MTV Raps." How that led to an opportunity to write and star in a movie is anyone's guess.

But when "Who's the Man?" is strictly a comedy, it's pretty funny, with some amusing cross-talk, some sly pokes at black culture and some delightful silliness, as when the duo tries to analyze "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Unfortunately, "Who's the Man?" isn't content to make us laugh, and when it gets serious, which it does all too often in the film's second half, the results are deadly. (There is also far too much profanity and sexist vulgarity here, making the film unsuitable for the young audience that would enjoy it most.)

"Who's the Man?" opens with Doctor Dre, the overweight one, and Ed Lover, the bearded one, as the worst barbers in Harlem. When their boss insists that they take the police force entrance exams, they reluctantly do so, sure they'll fail since they just went down the list of multiple-choice questions and wrote in the letters "ABACADABA" over and over.

To their surprise, they pass, go through the police academy and wind up pounding a beat on the streets of their old neighborhood in Harlem. But when a friend is murdered, they become self-appointed detectives and try to find out who killed him and why. This leads them to a nasty gun-running land developer who is, for some reason, buying up property around the area.

Doctor Dre and Ed Lover are quite funny together, and with a better honed script they might make a first-rate comedy. Among the supporting cast, Denis Leary fares best, riotous as the rookie cops' exasperated sergeant. And there are quite a few rappers in cameos (including Ice-T, as a minor villain), providing in-jokes for those who know the artists.

On the whole, however, this is more like an audition tape — the players show potential but the act needs work.

"Who's the Man?" is rated R for considerable profanity and vulgarity, with some violence.