Luckily for writer/director Todd Phillips, of Old School and now Starsky and Hutch fame, nostalgia is in in in. And while other recent cop remakes have simply tried to revive the past, Starksy and Hutch whimsically laughs at itself at the same time. Although the end result is not always successful, this change was refreshing.
In case the popular '75-'79 TV show has been forgotten, the basic premise follows two cops in a flashy red and white Ford Gran Torino around Bay City, California. Detective David Starksy (Ben Stiller) plays by the proverbial book and, in the 2004 movie, tries desperately to live up to his mother's legacy as one of Bay City's finest. Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is the cool cop, who doesn't hesitate to use his power to earn a little on the side. He brings his partner into association with Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), powerful local pimp and high-class informant. The remake serves as a sort prequel to the original show, showing how the odd couple get stuck together. On their first assignment, they find a floater in the bay that leads them to wealthy businessman/drug dealer Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), who has "caught the wave" with a new kind of coke years before the cola company. Along the way there are misadventures, costumes, and, of course, multiple gay references.
The die hard Starsky and Hutch fan, who, in their youth, sat on their parents' shag carpeting too close to the TV, begging to be able to watch the infamous show will be disappointed and insulted. I, however, appreciated such an irreverent glance back at the then-thought extremely violent cop show with a nod to its queer undertones in done well by the Stiller/Wilson pair. Doing such a remake reflects their ability to take themselves, as a team, less seriously. Neither breaks out of their moulds, nor adds any subtly to the one-sided nature of their characters. Wilson's wily ways are beginning to rust, but if you're a fan, you can still be charmed by the same smile and crooked nose, this time in retro duds. Stiller's character is not always likeable, but is quite amusing when he goes under cover. He plays a sleazy silver haired salesman-type in a green leisure suit with a bass vocal affectation that is continually spouting: "Do it...do it." The grey chest hair and huge tan glasses that topped off the outfit added just that perfect over-the-top touch that made me both laugh and cringe. I have to say the star of the show, however, is Snoop Dogg, who inhabits the Huggy Bear character as well as the indomitable Antonio Fargas did previously. While Snoops's comedic career may have begun with a surprisingly amusing aol commercial, it seems to be expanding. And it just gets better from there. Of course he plays the cool pimp character with ease and introduces us to his fly ride with the wittily executed line: "It's a '76. Won't be out 'til next year, but I know some people, that know some people, that rob some people." One of his most humorous, yet humble scenes happens when he goes undercover as a caddie. Snoop shows a vulnerable side of himself as he bares his baggy boxers and boney chest. His skinny body is comically mocked by the huge boxy transmitter strapped to his tiny hip with its antennae extended up to his armpit.
Overall, Starsky and Hutch's script wasn't as funny as I had hoped. The same jokes wrapped in 70's garb were still the same old jokes, and not quite as over the top as an Austin Powers -style romp through the past. Stiller and Wilson just don't have that same spasmodic energy that Mike Myers or Robin Williams have when delivering mediocre one-liners. But the kitschy set itself did provide some products of comedic value. Here's a rundown.
- Headphones as big as your head that made a jogging Starsky look like a beach bug.
- Drug fueled disco dance contest with a "sexy" Ron Jeremy look-alike described as, "…scrapple made out of sexy."
- Village people mustache on Vince Vaughn.
- Short shorts, tight jeans, and tea towels as locker room coverings.
- Leisure suits.
- A cameo appearance by the original Starsky and Hutch (Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul).
If those are funny enough, and at times they are, Starsky and Hutch, is a good watch-with-a-good-crowd movie. It certainly was better than the last Stiller flick, so if you're a fan of either Stiller or that decade of free love we all miss, it's worth a look-see.