Starsky and Hutch

Movies Reviews
Starsky and Hutch

This latest installment in the never-ending onslaught of old TV-shows-turned-feature-films stars Ben Stiller as Dave Starsky, a by-the-book cop whose over-eager approach to law enforcement leads to constant ridicule from his co-workers. Owen Wilson is Ken Hutchinson (aka “Hutch”), the kind of lazy cop who takes advantage of his police powers to further his own not-always-respectable ends.

The plot, of course, is secondary— mainly a vehicle to set up each gag along the way. Vince Vaughan plays the villain, who’s peddling a newly engineered batch of odorless cocaine in a $35 million drug distribution deal with local gang leaders. Starsky and Hutch learn about the deal from hustler/informant Huggy Bear (played by Snoop Dogg), and spend the film trying to crack the case.

The comedy director du jour, Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School), is clearly comfortable here. And fortunately for him, the source material isn’t held holy by a legion of rabid fans, thus freeing it up for some creative interpretation. The Starsky and Hutch characters are the spitting image of their TV show precursors, but they’re also parodies of them (although the last few seasons of the show were much goofier and more focused on Starsky and Hutch’s relationship than the first season, which was a serious cop drama).

Wilson and Stiller prove once again that they’re the best comedic team since Farley and Spade. Stiller is hilarious as the clumsy, spastic, yet poignantly driven Starsky (whose mother was on the force for 20 years before she died). The scene where Stiller takes part in a disco dance-off after unknowingly loading himself up on some of Vaughn’s “New Coke” is wonderfully reminiscent of the walk-off scene in Stiller and Wilson’s modeling spoof Zoolander. And Wilson is as cool as his partner is clumsy.

Starsky and Hutch is a solid comedy that plays more like an SNL spoof of the show than an accurate film representation. And that is a good thing. The original plan for the film was to have Starsky and Hutch as ’70s guys living in today’s world (a la the Brady Bunch films) but the idea was scrapped when the film’s budget was bolstered. Starsky and Hutch’s release was also delayed due to a series of reshoots—the scenes featuring Snoop Dogg tested so well that more were added (a decision that plays well). I’d definitely look forward to a Huggy Bear spinoff in the not-so-distant future.

Vince Vaughan pulls off a top-notch, scene-stealing performance as the villain, Reese Feldman. His lanky, 6’5″ frame fits comically into his pink leisure suits and ridiculous tennis outfits, and his hysterical portrayal of the bad guy as a concerned father at his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah is worth the price of admission.

The one problem that keeps the film from being a classic comedy is that while the clothes and cars are unmistakably ’70s, the film itself still looks very 21st century. Crisp focus, bright colorization and neutered camera work keep the viewer from truly being transported back to the ’70s. This a problem Phillips could easily have solved by shooting with aged film stock, or hiring a director of photography who knows how to light a set “’70s-style”—with more shadows, colored lighting and a bit of “handi-cam” as well. The original stars of the show, Paul Michael “I Haven’t worked since they called me Starsky” Glaser and David “I can barely talk now but can still collect a paycheck Hutch” Soul, appear in a cameo that’s too late, too obligatory, too obvious and too unfunny. But these are minor gripes. As far as paying $8.50 to sit around and laugh hard for an hour-and-a-half, Starsky and Hutch is one to see.

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