Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: "Starsky and Hutch" is Average Entertainment (Happy B'day, Snoop Dogg)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 27 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Starsky & Hutch (2004)
Running time:  101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – PR-13 for drug content, sexual situations, partial nudity, language and some violence
DIRECTOR:  Todd Phillips
WRITERS:  John O’Brien, Scot Armstrong and Todd Phillips, from a story Steve Long and John O’Brien (based upon characters created by William Blinn)
PRODUCERS:  William Blinn, Stuart Cornfeld, Akiva Goldsman, Tony Ludwig, and Alan Riche
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Barry Peterson (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Leslie Jones
COMPOSER:  Theodore Shapiro

COMEDY/CRIME with some elements of action

Starring:  Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Fred Williamson, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis, Jason Bateman, Amy Smart, Carmen Electra, George Cheung, Chris Penn, Patton Oswalt, Jenard Burks, The Bishop Don Magic Juan, and Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul

The subject of this movie review is Starsky & Hutch, a 2004 crime comedy from director Todd Phillips.  The film is based on the 1970s television series, Starsky & Hutch, a police drama-thriller that was created by William Blinn and was originally broadcast on the ABC television network from 1975 to 1979.  The film is a kind of prequel to the original television series.  Starsky & Hutch the movie follows two streetwise cops who fight crime in their red-and-white Ford Torino.

With my refined tastes, I should technically be repulsed by film remakes of 70’s television programs, but repulsed or otherwise, I’ll generally see them.  Still, I’d planned on seeing the controversial Mel Gibson Jesus movie, but it was sold out, and there was the poster for Starsky & Hutch staring me in the face.  Though I had to settle on something I hadn’t planned on seeing at the time, it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of Starsky and Hutch.  It’s a fairly funny film, but you wouldn’t have missed a cinematic event that must be seen on the big screen if you’d waited for home video or TV.

Set in a sort of anachronistic version of the 1970’s, S&H is the story of two streetwise detectives who form an unlikely partnership.  David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is an anal by-the-books guy, who actually does nothing but screw up, despite his attention to rules.  Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is a genial kind of guy, always hanging loose, but he is also the kind of cop who breaks the law when it suits him.  Hutch robs bookies for their loot, and he uses illegal drugs.  The mismatched pair gets on the nerves of their boss, Captain Dobey (Fred Williamson), relies on tips from an omniscient street informer, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), and busts crime in Starksy’s 1974 red-and-white, souped-up Ford Torino.  Their first big case together involves a respectable businessman, Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), who may be a big time cocaine dealer.  However, Starsky and Hutch’s bumbling and lack of hard evidence dog their case every step of the way.

Starsky & Hutch has some extremely hilarious moments, not as many as, say, Scary Movie 3.  S&H is structured like SM3 in that S&H’s plot, story, and script are basically an elaborate, but dumb, blueprint to layout jokes.  S&H’s script is, however, nothing like the disaster of that was SM3’s script.  S&H also reminds me of another of director Todd Phillip’s hits, Old School (2003): lots of funny scenes, but ultimately a lame, by-the-book, Hollywood yuck fest that plays it way too safe.

This is also one of the times that Ben Stiller’s shtick, that of the angry, quick-tempered nerd, works for the film.  Owen Wilson is a great screen presence; the camera loves him, and the role of the amiable Hutch easily fits Owen’s usually warm and generous film persona.

I generally enjoyed this film’s deep tongue in the tongue-in-cheek mode.  Starsky and Hutch is not to be taken seriously, nor does the film try to make you do so.  The quasi-70’s setting is a hoot, at least early on, but the film’s period atmosphere eventually dissolves into mere background noise.  There should have been much more Snoop Dogg because he surprisingly has good screen presence.  Also, Will Ferrell’s (who doesn’t get a screen credit) riotous turn as Big Earl, a man in the county lockup with serious man crush issues, is certainly a reason to see this film, at home or in a theatre.

5 of 10

2005 Razzie Awards:  2 nominations: “Worst Actor” (Ben Stiller) and “Worst Supporting Actress” (Carmen Electra)

Updated:  Sunday, October 20, 2013


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