(Originally published 2004)
The boring Todd Phillips movie, “Starsky & Hutch,” is based on the spry 1975-79 cop series starring Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul. Here’s a tip: If you’re old enough to remember the series and were a fan of it, savor those memories. If you never saw the show and have any interest in seeing it now, catch it on DVD.
But by all means, skip the movie.
Allegedly, this redux is a comedy, though audiences will be hard-pressed to find many laughs. Phillips co-wrote the movie with four other writers, which in no way suggests that they all got in a room and had a great time banging out a script. If they had, their movie likely would have had the energy it lacks and the humor it’s missing.
Instead, when this many people are attached to a script, it’s usually because each successive attempt failed to do the job. Recognizing this, the studio hires script doctors to salvage the material.
Looking at it this way, what does it say for “Starsky & Hutch” that the studio recognized five times that the movie was a dud? What does it say for the writers that none of them got it right? It’s not as if they were translating Dostoevsky.
“Starsky & Hutch” is lame and uninspired, for sure, but not only because of its story, which finds the two bumbling detectives tracking a drug lord (Vince Vaughn) with the help of Starsky’s famed Grand Torino. Another reason it bombs is because its stars--Ben Stiller as Starsky and Owen Wilson as Hutch—aren’t playing Starsky and Hutch so much as they’re playing themselves playing Starsky and Hutch.
With their wigs and their hip period drag, they may look the part--sort of--but each has delivered these performances so many times before in better movies, even they seem bored by their own worn-out shtick. Stealing the movie from them is rap star Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear and Carmen Electra as a menage-a-trois tramp. This isn’t something to be proud of, folks.
Comedy is difficult. Good comedies are rare. “Starsky & Hutch” has three noteworthy moments, one in which involves a horse mistakenly gunned down at a Bat Mitzvah. The scene works because it has an element of surprise, especially for the horse.
What don’t work are the film’s broader pieces, such as when our crime-fighting duo appear as mimes to entertain a crowd of stupefied partygoers. Though it obviously wasn’t Phillips’ intent, the children in that crowd were just as silent as the crowd at my screening.