Starsky & Hutch (2004) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for drug content, sexual situations, partial nudity, language and some violence
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Snoop Dogg, Fred Williamson, Jason Bateman, Amy Smart, Carmen Electra, Chris Penn
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenplay: John O'Brien, Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong
Starsky & Hutch is yet another big screen recreation of an old classic TV show, and like many others that have been made in recent years, it isn't so much an homage or a spoof, so much as another playground to set the modern day silly antics in. That's not to say that it completely ignores its source material, as there are enough homages and satirical bits to keep this from being just another generic 70s spoof, but clearly, this was a film penned with the duo of Stiller and Wilson in mind. Trying to capture the zaniness that pushed Zoolander to success, this time out, the normally sure-fire duo find themselves hamming much more than quipping, and the end result is that Starsky & Hutchis a comedy with fewer laughs than you'd expect...or deserve.
Set in the 1970s in the fictional, Bay City, Stiller (Duplex, Along Came Polly) stars as Starsky, the straight-laced, by-the-books cop on the beat, who has a bad habit of being quick on the trigger, which has resulted in him being assigned a new partner shortly after receiving one. As just desserts for shooting off at the mouth, the chief assigns him a new partner, "Hutch" (Wilson, The Big Bounce), who has a less ambitious approach to fighting crime, sometimes using his position to be a part of it. Their first assignment together is to take down the notorious drug kingpin known as Reese (Vaughn, Swingers), who is about to make millions unleashing a new form of cocaine which is undetectable and untraceable.
This is one of those comedies that does two scenes wrong for every one right, so expect hit-and-miss hilarity most of the way. Directed in a more subdued fashion than he's accustomed to, Todd Phillips (Old School, Road Trip) does manage to deliver the things you might expect in a throwback of this sort -- the music, the clothing, the cars, and the hairstyles. Yet, despite a proven cast, some funny cameos, lots of car chases and gunplay, and a definite energy, there are long stretches where no laughs are to be had. Long sequences too, like a very unfunny scene involving the duo as a couple of mimes with nowhere to go with the shtick, or another lengthy one involving Huggy Bear, played by Snoop Dogg (Training Day, The Wash) , as a fish-out-of-water golf caddy. This would not be a bad thing if it weren't for the fact that the plot is the least interesting aspect of the movie, and without much humor in it, tedium does creep in every once in a while. Not enough to make it bad, but just enough to keep it from hitting any kind of stride for very long.
If one were to strip out all of the needless, gratuitous and misguided scenes, one could probably have a hell of a funny "Saturday Night Live" skit which parodied the 70s TV show. Alas, we have that skit, plus about 80 minutes of mediocrity in between the good stuff. Fans of the TV show may love seeing the resurrection of bits and pieces of 70s cool, but really, so much more could have been done with this material. Outside of this, die-hard fans of Stiller and Wilson should be entertained, but there is really something wrong with a film this chock full of comedic talent only inspiring occasionally cute side-shows.
©2004 Vince Leo