© 2004 Ray Wong
When we hear Barry Manilow crooning “Can’t Smile Without You” in the opening shot, we know that we are in for a time warp.
STARSKY & HUTCH is part of the current trend: obscure TV shows turned movies. Unlike the updated CHARLIE’S ANGELS, this is a blatant throwback to the ’70s; but like CHARLIE’S ANGELS, it is rather mindless with some funny bits.
If you are not familiar with the original TV series (1975-79) starring Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky) and David Soul (Hutch), it is perfectly okay. This is in essence a good cop/bad cop, buddy movie. David Starsky (Stiller, ROYAL TENENBAUMS) and Ken Hutchinson (Owen, ROYAL TENENBAUMS) are Bay City, CA, detectives.
Starsky is an uptight, by-the-book “good cop” and Hutch is a loosy-goosy, somewhat shady “bad cop.” Their respective mishaps result in their new partnership and their first break comes in the shape of a dead gangster. Aided by an informant Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) and two cheerleaders (Electra and Smart), Starsky and Hutch follow the hot trails to a wealthy philanthropist Reese (Vaughn, OLD SCHOOL). Reese is actually secretly arranging a mega deal selling “miracle” cocaine that is totally undetectable. Along the way, the comic duo stumbles through a whacked out disco contest, a bar mitzvah that has a bit too much “horseplay”, a knife fight in Chinatown, shootouts and car chases. You know, the ’70s!
STARSKY & HUTCH is a welcome diversion from the gravity of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. The cast and crew seem to be having a lot of fun, and that jovial mood translates well to the audience.
There is really nothing new here, though. Stiller is playing once again the same character he has been playing for years; but he does it so well that he is pretty much typecast for life. So is Wilson, who always does better work partnered with another actor (except the formidable I SPY with Eddie Murphy).
The co-stars exude incredible chemistry together, and that is the glue that holds the film. The supporting cast is adequate: Vaughn is effectively slimy; Bateman is a good sport as Reese’s right hand man; Electra and Smart have not much to do beside being sexy and cheery; Lewis is totally wasted as Reese’s girlfriend. Glaser and Soul have a cameo at the end that feels too silly and gratuitous. The standouts are the droll Snoop Dogg as a wise guy in the ’hood and funnyman Ferrell as an inmate who has an affinity with needlework and cute cops. And Starsky’s Ford Torino is practically a character in itself. Director Phillips (ROAD TRIP, OLD SCHOOL) keeps the pace brisk and milks every ’70s sight gag (the Afros, leisure suits, hot rods and disco).
There are some genuinely funny moments but in general, the writing is choppy and flat. It is a formula that may have worked well in the ’70s; now it simply seems a little old fashioned and tired. It seems like Hollywood is running out of ideas. What is next? ROSEANE the movie?
Stars: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Fred Williamson, Carmen Electra, Amy Smart, Jason Bateman, Juliette Lewis
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: John O’Brien, Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexuality, partial nudity, language, drugs and violence
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total – 6.6 out of 10