From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Movie Review: Starsky and Hutch

Starsky and Hutch (2004) Director - Todd Phillips; Starring - Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dog, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis, Jason Bateman, Fred Williamson; Screenplay - John O'Brien, Todd Phillips, and Scot Armstrong; Rated PG-13 for language, violence, partial nudity, drug content, some sexual situations.

Lets start by making one minor qualification about my ability to comment on this movie. Although I was born in 1972, and was an active TV watching child during some of the 70's, I did not watch a lot of the shows that most others my age did. I was not a fan of Dallas, Dukes of Hazzard, Fantasy Island and the like. So to be 100% honest, I did not watch a lot, if any, of the old TV series Starsky and Hutch.

However, I did watch more than a fair amount of other 70's TV cop shows (my father watched a good amount of Adam 12, so that is what I have some memories of. Also SWAT, which was turned into a sub-par movie last summer. I know enough about the style of the 70's to make one comment right out of the gate. Todd Phillips got this movie just about exactly right for the feel of the 1970's. And for that reason, this movie works really effectively in making you laugh out loud.

Ben Stiller plays David Starsky, a second generation by the numbers cop, who takes his job very seriously. No crime is to small to escape the attention of David. And that is part of his problem. Because he gets so wound up about every little violation of the law, he all too often misses the bigger picture.

It's because of one too many lapses in perspective that Starsky's commanding officer Captain Doby (Fred "The Hammer" Williamson in a nice straight man role) decides that Starsky needs to be partnered up with Detective Ken Hutchinson (Owen Wilson).

Hutch, as his friends call him, is one of the most self serving cops out there. As far as he's concerned, it's not about enforcing the law as a cop. All he's concerned about is making some kind of score that will get him off the streets, and into early retirement. It's the pairing of Starsky and Hutch that should be enough to drive both men batty, and maybe even off the force. But for some really odd reason, they work well together, almost despite themselves. And together, they pool their resources to try and bring down a drug kingpin named Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn).

This movie has multiple laugh out loud moments that had the whole audience rolling. Stiller and Wilson are each doing their own respective shtick which has carried them this far in their film career. Stiller even gets to break out a character from his critically acclaimed TV show for one of their undercover assignments. So if you're looking for either of them to show growth as actors, you're going to need to keep looking. But if you like familiarity, you're going to enjoy the turns they each give.

Stiller is particularly funny as Starsky. He keeps throwing different parts of his character at you, from being the anal retentive hyper-law abiding cop, to the swinging 70's bachelor on the disco floor. A scene with him in a disco is really nicely done, and the thing that makes his character work even better is the way they get all Stiller's costumes down just right (when he breaks out the fisherman's sweater late in the movie, you swear you can feel your jeans morphing into bell bottoms in the theater).

Wilson is as agreeable as ever. His portrayal of Hutch lifts a lot of the same mannerisms his character Roy O'Bannon in Shanghai Noon had, updated for a 70's feel. And that's not a bad thing. It's funny, it seems to get the attention of the ladies in the audience, and it works for him. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Vaughn is nicely over the top as your prototype 70's villain. He's the kind of bad guy who you know is going to wind up getting so hacked off at the good guys that he's going to make some kind of stupid mistake. And the screenwriters do a nice job of playing that for laughs, and changing things up to throw you off. Is Reese "money", as Vince would say in Swingers? Well, no, but he's not bad by any stretch.

But for my money, the real star of the show after Stiller and Wilson has got to be Will Ferrell in an uncredited cameo as Big Earl. Earl is a con that Starsky and Hutch try to lean on for more information on Reese's organization. The interrogation they give him in prison has to be one of the funniest things I have seen in a long while. It's easily the high point of the movie.

Everything else about the movie helps add a lot of the color that it carries when the leads aren't on screen. From the clothes, to the music, to even getting a beautiful replica of Starsky's Grand Tourino, everyone behind this movie shows that they know what made the original work, and just how ludicrous some of what was popular then looks today. Snoop Dog has a really enjoyable supporting role as Hutch's main man Huggy Bear. And then to put the cherry on top, the movie works in a cameo appearance from Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul (the original Starsky and Hutch) that works as a nice salute to what they did, and last little homage to the original.

Is this a movie that's going to change your life? Hardly. But as a nice little popcorn movie, it's some good silly fun. Just check your brain at the door, and have some fun. It's a good way to kill time until the big blockbusters of summer are ready for us.