Starsky & Hutch Review

Mar 09, 2004 | 7:28am EST

Welcome to Bay City (that's San Francisco folks) circa 1975 where the action's hot and the afro sportin' platform shoes wearin' disco lovin' natives are even hotter. One such denizen is David Starsky (Ben Stiller) a by-the-book homicide detective whose motto is "When you cross the line your nuts are mine!" He's got a lot to prove--his mom was a legend in the force killed in the line of duty--and his fierce determination to bring in the bad guys drives away potential partners. Finally he's paired up with Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) a laid-back detective who "looks out for Numero Uno" and has a tough time upholding the law because he keeps breaking it. On their first day as partners the boys find a dead body floating in the bay. With the help of Hutch's super-fly "urban informant" Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) who tells them "I dish it out so you can play it out " they follow a trail that leads to businessman/suspected drug dealer Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). The unlikely duo have to look past their differences and pool all their street smarts undercover skills and good looks to get to the bottom of this one.

Sometimes casting is everything. Without the manic and hilarious Stiller the breezy and unaffected Wilson the ultra-cool hip-hopper Snoop Dogg and the wry and flippant Vaughn Starsky & Hutch would quickly fall apart since it lacks anything resembling a compelling plot. Stiller and Wilson re-create that groovy chemistry they had in Zoolander; they read each other intuitively. But more important for those fans who want to wax nostalgic the actors also bear an uncanny resemblance to the original Starsky & Hutch players TV stars Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul (who of course make a strategic cameo--and don't look too bad for old guys). Same goes for Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear although he has a slightly menacing attitude that the original Huggy Antonio Fargas didn't. Vaughn makes a delicious bad guy spouting offhand non-sequiturs in the midst of the mayhem he creates. Case in point after shooting a delinquent minion on his yacht he sits down in the sun and asks his mistress (played by a gleeful Juliette Lewis) if he's "tanning weird." But Will Ferrell's brief appearance as a prison inmate with a penchant for dragons and belly buttons nearly steals the show.

This is director/co-writer Todd Phillips' (Road Trip Old School) third attempt at broad comedy and while we'd like to say he keeps getting better at it it wouldn't be true. Certainly Phillips has a knack for the genre: Old School combined a convincing albeit simplistic story with bellyaching hysterics and Phillips employs many of the same devices and an equally talented cast to pull off similarly hilarious moments in Starsky & Hutch. Unfortunately the director is working with limited and rehashed material. The original TV show version of Starsky & Hutch which ran from 1975 to 1979 was all about the adorable Starsky the drop-dead gorgeous Hutch the car--and that's about it. No NYPD Blue or Hill Street Blues high drama there. While Phillips hits all the S & H high points he isn't able to flesh out much more than the show did--and considering how hokey it was to begin with you wish he'd added something a little more to the original.

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