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Starsky & Hutch

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 03/05/04 02:29:03

"Comedy is like police work: you gotta rely on your partner."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

What is it that would make for a BAD McDonald's meal? All fast food must do is taste somewhat good and be cooked properly, health be damned. The same holds true for Junk Food Movies; I don't expect Filet Mignon from a big-screen adaptation of the old Starsky & Hutch TV show. Give me a colorful ride, a few pretty girls, and a solid amount of chuckles...and I'm a happy guy.

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson: Two very funny men who are often cast in atrocious movies with nearly unsalvageable screenplays. For every one instance of a Meet the Parents or a Royal Tenenbaums, you'll find a half-dozen Duplexes and Big Bounces and I Spys and Along Came Pollys. Clearly these two guys don't "fit" into just any comedy.

The duo has appeared together several times before (rather humorously in the case of the rather underrated Zoolander), and it's with the appearance of this new Starsky & Hutch movie that one hopes Ben & Owen will stick together for a few more movies. They certainly seem to have better luck together than they do apart.

Obviously Starsky & Hutch is a silly affair, but it's also an entirely enjoyable little farce that features several funny people, a kooky and colorful tone, a handful of great tunes, and enough solid chuckles to warrant a 7-dollar investment. It sure isn't high art, but this is a flick that capably accomplishes precisely what it set out to do in the first place...which is to deliver good, goofy laughs in a light and amiable setting. With a dash of the disco beat.

See, most movies based on television shows... Well, they suck. Normally. Because very little besides suckiness can occur when your entire project is based on the fiscal-centric ravings of a production company desperate to repackage an old product, all in the name of Name Recognition Marketability. The Mod Squad? The Avengers? Puh-leeze. Soulless husks hoping to steal a few pennies from some nostalgic baby boomers.

But the lesson learned from 1995's The Brady Bunch Movie (and to a lesser degree, the first Charlie's Angels movie) was simple: deliver your nostalgia package wrapped up in some satirical post-modern wrapping, toss in a little naughtiness to keep things spicy, and hire the right actors for the gig. Were any of the "Brady" faithful offended by the ribbing that the series took in that film? Of course not, because being that in love with a kooky old 70s show is just too bizarre to contemplate.

It's clear that director Todd Phillips (coming off the one-two box office punch of Road Trip and Old School) had this approach in mind when he tackled the old and dated (yet fondly remembered) Starsky & Hutch series. I mean really; who could conceive of a big screen version that wore a straight face and fired real bullets?

Taking a page from The Brady Bunch Movie and Tom Mankiewicz's 1987 comedy version of Dragnet, Starsky & Hutch is both affectionate to its source material, and snarky enough to poke fun at its forefather with consistently amusing results. Sure, the bulk of the movie's charm comes courtesy of Stiller and Wilson (not to mention a great little performance from Vince Vaughn, another hilarious guy who's generally misused in movies) but Philips has some fun poking at the very plot constructions of the old 70s cop shows. Starsky & Hutch doesn't have so much of a 'plot' as it has a series of silly encounters, each yielding one clue regarding the next potential suspect. Certain scenes fade out as if a commercial break is on the way, and it's evident that Phillips is shooting for something that tweaks convention without stomping all over it.

There have been so many atrocious movies based on TV shows that it's tough to believe a Starsky & Hutch adaptation could yield anything other than head-slaps and groans. But thanks to a winning pair of comedic cops, an impressive collection of supporting players, and an overall sense of silly good fun, Starsky & Hutch turns out twice as enjoyable as it probably should have been.

The teens will dig the interplay between Ben and Owen, the parents will appreciate the knowing winks at TV Land of Yesteryear. It may be just another 'unnecessary movie based on a kitschy old TV show'...but compared to most of its ilk, Starsky & Hutch is a damn solid little comedy indeed.

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