joke about Starsky & Hutch may be that there really
aren't many jokes. Take away a few tweaks and nods of hindsight
about the strangeness of the seventies, and the movie version
plays as a long episode of the original, just with a new cast.
When you've got Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson doing their thing,
of course, it can't help but be funny.
now, director Todd Phillips has been an indifferent talent.
He has a sense of humor, but often his jokes led nowhere -
if you've seen Old School, you probably laughed, but
somehow knew you could have laughed harder.
where Starsky & Hutch creaks the most is when he has
tried too hard to pull off a gag instead of just letting the
situation play out. That happens often in the first third
of the film, and then somehow somebody convinced him (perhaps
in the editing room) to just lay off and let things reach
their natural conclusion.
the help of cinematographer Barry Peterson and a host of designers,
the film certainly has the look of the seventies. More specifically,
it feels like a television show from that time period, with
flat lighting and an earnest if uninteresting score. If Stiller
(as Starsky) looks a little uncomfortable and out of place,
that's just the niche he has found on film in general. Wilson,
however, appears to have finally found his home.
which may actually be a remake of a Starsky & Hutch
episode for all I know, concerns drug kingpin Reese Feldman
(Vince Vaughn) and his scheme to take over the narcotics trade
the help of his aide (or brother - the relationship is never
quite clear) Friday (Jason Bateman), Feldman plans to introduce
a new odorless cocaine onto the market. Appropriately and
winkingly called New Coke, it fools drug-sniffing dogs. Most
importantly, it fools Starsky, whose uses it to sweeten his
coffee and launch a delirious sequence of events that still,
embarrassingly, don't really exaggerate things too much. (The
best part of that sequence? Owen Wilson singing original Hutch
David Soul's one hit wonder, "Don't Give Up On Us, Baby.")
because it must, the action brings in street pimp Huggy Bear,
played by Snoop Dogg (or vice versa). Why is never really
quite clear, though eventually an undercover operation arises
that does need his services. Except for one in-joke there
about grass, the rapper and his role meld seamlessly, in a
classic bit of casting that may make you forget Antonio Fargas.
Perhaps you already have.
casting works surprisingly well, mainly because the script
has been so slavish to the television show's set-up. Though
the character of Manetti has nothing to do (probably a later
episode would focus … oh, wait…), Chris Penn easily fills
his shoes. Sporting a cheesy moustache, Vaughn clearly needs
to go back in time and become a regular villain-of-the-week
on ABC. In the only female role that really registers, Juliette
Lewis works a little harder than she has in quite a while.
there's Stiller and Wilson. If you caught them on the Oscars,
you already know they have a chemistry that plays up both
of their personas well. For some, their previous teaming,
Zoolander didn't work, but in that case at least one
of them was stretching out of his persona. But now that Stiller
has settled in to the role of urban angst avatar, it's pretty
funny to see that become a would-be action hero. Underneath
his easy-going demeanor, Wilson has always had just enough
steel to make him seem possibly tough. Now they work.
they work so well that a director like Phillips can take it
easy, still squeak by and get a lot of undue credit. So much
so at this point that the helmer already has another television
remake lined up, The Six Million Dollar Man. Why? Because
test audiences loved Starsky & Hutch, and it's not
hard to understand.
like the television series, it's hard not to like these guys.
Someday, somebody will have enough talent to make us love