Starsky & Hutch (***)

Posted on March 7th, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

I went into Starsky & Hutch with lowwwwwww expectations, as I generally find myself being annoyed by Ben Stiller, I’ve been disappointed with Owen Wilson’s recent role choices, I don’t think I’ve ever liked anything that Snoop Dogg has done, and although I haven’t seen Old School, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it (and S&H is directed by the same guy). So, put it all together and I was sure this would be a toilet-humor-intensive schlock-fest of the worst magnitude.

Boy, was I wrong. The movie is very, very funny. Stiller and Wilson have great chemistry, Snoop makes a good Huggy Bear, and there’s even some halfway decent cop-action sequences. As a kid I watched the original TV series regularly, but I couldn’t tell you one single plot line or catch phrase from the show. However, I did remember some strange tidbits, such as how perfectly Ben Stiller captured the akimbo-ness of Starsky’s running style when chasing a suspect.

The movie also captures the gestalt of the ’70s very well, with bevies of glossy-lipped, Farrah-haired, free-love-embracing foxes, pimp daddies, muscle cars, cocaine, leisure suits, discos, and the music…man, does the movie get the music right. I shudder to think what the music budget was for this film, because they got all the good stuff, like:

Chicago – Old Days

Dazz – Brick

Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash

Right Back Where We Started From – Maxine Nightingale

Use Me – Bill Withers

Dancing Machine – Jackson 5

That’s The Way I Like It – KC & The Sunshine Band

Don’t Give Up On Us – Owen Wilson (originally by David Soul, the original Hutch!)

Afternoon Delight – Starland Vocal Band

 

The story revolves around a drug lord (Vince Vaughn) who is introducing a type of cocaine that is not detectable by drug-sniffing dogs. The drug is extracted from a genetically altered coca plant, gets you just as high, and tastes like artificial sweetener. The name of this concoction? It is, of course, called “New Coke”, in a funny nod to one of the great shared cultural experiences of the 80’s.

Starsky and Hutch are paired together in that old tradition of the straight-laced, by-the-book cop (Starsky) being paired with the laid-back, rule-bending partner (Hutch) by their always angry, always shouting boss. The film also portrays Starsky and Hutch as a sort of ambiguously gay duo…not that there’s anything wrong with that…but also has the boys chasing the ladies, and even includes Hutch involved in a cocaine-fueled menage-a-trois with two cheerleaders (it’s not as seedy as it sounds).

There’s also a stunningly funny, excrutiatingly discomforting, mind-numbingly absurd cameo by Will Ferrell, where he…no, I just can’t explain it. You have to see it for yourself. I’m not a big Will Ferrell fan, so believe me when I say that his scenes alone are worth the price of admission and are, by themselves, funnier than most of the “comedies” being released by Hollywood these days.

Also watch for the nearly unrecognizable Juliette Lewis as the drug lord’s girlfriend, Chris Penn as another cop, Jason Bateman as a Gordon Gecko-ish consigliere, and Amy Smart and Carmen Electra as the aforementioned cheerleaders.

Put it all together and you have a funny, entertaining film that doesn’t stoop to cheap shots or toilet humor, and that manages to catch the feel of the 70’s and the original series while still feeling fresh and new. Kudos to all involved – this film has raised my opinion of all of you, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

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