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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Starsky & Hutch

MOVIE REVIEWS

STARSKY & HUTCH (2004)

Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Snoop Dogg, Fred Williamson, Juliette Lewis, Jason Bateman, Amy Smart, Carmen Electra, George Kee Cheung, Chris Penn, Brande Roderick, Molly Sims, Matt Walsh, Patton Oswalt, Will Ferrell, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser.

Screenplay by John O'Brien and Todd Phillips & Scot Arnstrong.

Directed by Todd Phillips.

Distributed by Warner Brothers  Pictures.  101 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

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Starsky & Hutch

There is an entire generation of snarky TV viewers that is taking over the world.  They watch old television with a constant raised eyebrow, looking for fashion disasters and out-of-date references.  They are the type of people whose greatest aspiration is to be talking heads on VH1's I Love the 70s

I'll tell you what.  I love the VH1 specials.  However, there is a reason why they spend maybe one-two minutes on each show/movie/song/fad they discuss.  Because cool disdain is a sprinter's sport.  It's real tough to keep it up over an hour and a half.

A long time ago, Hollywood pretty much gave up on doing serious versions of old TV shows, with only occasional projects like The Fugitive taking the source material seriously.  The 1987 version of Dragnet with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks is the first time I remember an old TV series being mined for ironic kitsch.  That film was pretty good (but far from great) but it has spawned a whole subgenre.  The style hit the giddy heights with the inspired lunacy of The Brady Bunch Movie, but much more commonly is misused in crap like Charlie's Angels and I Spy. 

Starsky & Hutch had the potential to be one of the better ones.  It's a potential that they don't completely take advantage of.  The original series was kind of edgy and funky.  I recently saw the pilot episode, for the first time in years I'd seen the show, and it had lots of quirky and then-risky characters; pimps, strippers, gamblers, murderers, elderly bombers.  However, like every show on television pre-Seinfeld (or at least pre-Miami Vice), if you watch it now it is incredibly slow-moving.

The movie wants to play it relatively straight, hoping that changing times and mores have made the story intrinsically hilarious.  It genuinely is sometimes extremely funny.  In the end, they spend way too much time on the supposed homo-erotic tension between the macho cops.  They bicker and tease like an old married couple.  It is really hysterical at at first, but then you realize that it's the only joke that the filmmakers are really exploring. 

Ben Stiller does do a terrific job on tapping into the intense energy of Paul Michael Glaser.  However, as amusing as he is, I just find it hard to take Ben Stiller seriously when he tries to play an uptight, angry character (see also: Mystery Men and his guest appearance on Friends.)  I know that is supposed to be the point, you aren't supposed to take Stiller's Starsky too seriously, but it still keeps the film at arm's length from the audience. 

At least Stiller tries to channel the character from the series.  Owen Wilson is not even bothering to try to be David Soul.  He is just playing his typical laid back surfer doofus character.  I also didn't quite take to Snoop Dogg's read on urban informant Huggy Bear, he plays the character as blissfully stoned rather than the edgy ghetto machismo of Antonio Fargas' original character.

As for the 1976 red Gran Torino, it still rocks.  (Although, right out of college I bought one because I thought it looked cool, but the engine caught fire every time I drove it, so I had to get rid of the auto in a few weeks.)  Frankly, Starsky's relationship with his car is more realistic than his relationship with his partner.  A scene towards the end when Stiller keeps diving underwater to save the Torino after driving it off a pier is one of the funniest moments in the film.  That moment and a scene where they interrogate a cheerleader and a moment with a pony given as a bat mitzah present are so funny that you see what the movie could have been if they just worked a little harder.  (3/04)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2004 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved. Posted: March 7, 2004.

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Copyright 2004   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved. Posted: March 7, 2004.