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Starsky and Hutch

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Starsky and Hutch

Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson
Director: Todd Phillips
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: March 2004
Genres: Action, Comedy

*Also starring: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Vince Vaughn, Fred Williamson, Chris Penn, Terry Crews, Richard Edson, Raymond Ma, David Pressman, Amy Smart, Carmen Electra, Brande Roderick

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

If you've ever looked into a police patrol car and noted the two officers encamped therein, you may wonder (in some cases) how a pair of such mismatched people ever got together. Do cops choose their own partners? Not likely. Partners without chemistry, paired-off officers who fear that their partners would not be able adequately to protect them, officers whose spouses may wonder whether hanky panky could be going on in the police cars all these situations could be ripe for the comedy makers. In "Starsky & Hutch," based loosely on the team celebrated on ABC-TV in the late 1970's, is a new comedy by Todd Phillips who obviously hopes that the laughs will be as loud and continuous and those generated by Neil Simon's odd couple. Depending on your taste, Phillips could be correct. But try as he may, "Starsky & Hutch" never approaches the comic mayhem mined so well by the director in his "Old School" (three pals in their thirties try to bring back their youth by opening an unofficial fraternity house) and especially the riotous "Road Trip" (an upstate New York college student must head off an incriminating videotape accidentally sent to his girlfriend in Austin, Texas). Too many scenes appear sloppily improvised in a picture featuring a series of sketches that only partly succeed.

The good news is that the pairing of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson the former an uptight undercover agent regularly pushing the latter's surfer mentality is right-on. Stiller performs in the role of Dave Starsky to Owen Wilson's Ken Hutchinson. There's no surprise that the compulsive Starsky would have contempt for his partner's wheels, which would fit in more on Pepperidge Farm than on the streets of Bay City, California, suggesting instead that they ride in his 1974 Ford Torino (the one part of the script that connects with the TV series). With the help of their informer, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), the two hope to bring down the city's chief drug pusher, Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn, who is mustachioed and looking 1970's dapper), who has fooled even the precinct captain (Fred Williamson) into thinking that his newly invented, odorless cocaine is nothing but an artificial sweetener.

Neither the cocaine nor anything else the partners come across is passed up for comic potential. A German Shepherd not only finds regular coke on a guy but attacks him as well, while ignoring the bag of "new Coke." Will Ferrell turns up (as he did more effectively in Mr. Phillips's "Old School"), as a potential snitch who's in jail, wearing a net on his head and insisting that Starsky and Hutch spin around, turn their backs and acts like dragons. While in real life most cops go through their entire careers without ever firing their guns, Starsky blast away at will, in one case dropping a pony meant as a Bat Mitzvah present for Feldman's 13-year-old daughter. David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, who played the partners in the more violent TV series, turn up toward the conclusion, gaining recognition from the audience most of whom appeared as though they were eight years old when the ABC aired the series. One scene pushing the PG-13 envelope features Amy Smart and Carmen Electra as cheerleaders, flirting with the cops, ultimately making a play for each other.

Hit and miss like most comedies, "Starsky & Hutch," created from a script by John O'Brien, Todd Phillips, and Scot Armstrong from characters created by William Blinn, is a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half but never rises to the level of the director's previous outings.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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