Published on March 8th, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Starsky & Hutch
Director Todd Phillips is really enjoying himself on the director’s A-list, and he has ever right to be there. His three films have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars and become staples of college life. Road Trip introduced to us a break from the standard college teen comedy; Old School put us back into a college setting in our mid-thirties, and now Starsky & Hutch re-envisions the 1970’s television show for a new generation full of campy stunts and great personality.
Starsky & Hutch (TV) ran for 88 episodes in the 1970s in a decade that was known for putting out some zany television shows. The pairing of a by-the-book cop and one who takes things now quite as seriously isn’t a new concept in Hollywood, in fact, you could say the idea has been beaten into the ground more times than you can count, but for Starsky & Hutch the formula is fresh with an excellent screenplay and enough jokes to get you through the films 90 minute running time.
David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is the aforementioned by-the-book kind of guy who is out to catch the bad guys, shows up to work on time, and never does errands while on city time. Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is the exact polar opposite of Starsky, so it is only natural that they would become partners in this wacky world of fighting crime. Along for the ride is Snoop Dogg’s wondrous portrayal of Huggy Bear, one of Hutch’s most valuable informants. To say that Snoop steals the movie would be an understatement. He steals every scene that he is in, which is refreshing after such disappointments as Bones.
The antagonist this time around is Old School alumni Vince Vaughn playing Reese Feldman and arrogant drug cartel kingpin who has a short temper and a ditsy mistress (Juliette Lewis). Starsky and Hutch soon learn of Feldman’s goal in selling cocaine that cannot be detected by dogs, and tastes strangely like sugar, as one of the film’s funnier moment’s points out. After the disappointment of Club Dread, Starsky & Hutch was a welcomed change.
Phillips doesn’t want this film to be a parody or a spoof of the original series, rather a re-envisioning of the show and that is precisely what it is, but we aren’t to forget the film’s roots. The film is shot in a distinctive 70s style with wide angle shots from across the street that zoom in on a pair having a conversation to the way some of the scenes are cut together. Even the stunts scream 1970s with flying cars and big shoot outs in the streets of Bay City. The retro feel to the film only stimulates the nostalgia felt throughout, even for non-fans of the series. I’m willing to bet an equal number of patrons bought tickets to see this film based on Phillips name attached to it as those that bought tickets based on the franchise name. Also the headlining pair of Stiller and Wilson couldn’t have hurt.
The film is not without some problems. There is a general lack of story throughout, and what is present is laced relatively thin. The screenplay is very strong, and as mentioned before, the direction is top notch by Phillips. The 1970s overacting by Stiller and Wilson is just what you would expect from the duo, which could be a problem in itself. The dynamic pair virtually play the very same characters they play in every film, and now Wilson has been paired up with just about everyone in the industry, there aren’t too many people left besides Chris Tucker who has mysteriously disappeared since Rush Hour 2. Still, even with the basic plot and devices to progress it along, Starsky and Hutch is a fun and enjoyable film that rightfully opens the door for a franchise to bloom.