Starsky & Hutch: Back On The Street
directed by Todd Phillips
starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Snoop Dogg, Juliette Lewis, Amy Smart, Fred Williamson, Carmen Electra
From 1975 to 1979, the best cop show on television was Starsky & Hutch. Although it was a perennial ratings winner it also was groundbreaking in that it set the rules for ‘buddy cop’ TV series for the next two decades. Starsky & Hutch took the grit of cop shows and added mild tones of humor, gray doses of realism and adrenaline-fueled car chases.
Starsky & Hutch worked on TV because of chemistry. David Soul, a pretty boy singer/actor was cast alongside Paul Michael Glaser, a serious dramatist with ambitions of directing and producing his own work. Starsky & Hutch worked on another level as well; the series was different, it was real. It was a cop show that was not black and white. It was a real show with great stories, great actions and most importantly, great chemistry.
Now, nearly two decades later (and after several rewrites and studio delays) the same chemistry that fueled the TV series drives the new film version of Starsky & Hutch. David Starsky is a serious cop, who lives in the shadow of his late mother’s exemplary police record. He is tense, on edge and generally not very fun to be around. Ken ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson is fun to be around, but his desire to cut corners and make a few extra bucks supercedes his playing it by the book. The two castaway cops cross paths after embarrassing separate incidents land them in the doghouse of their supervisor, Captain Doby. Captain Doby decides that the intense and devoted Starsky and the laidback and slick Hutch should be partners.
Early on Starsky and Hutch don’t see eye to eye on a whole lot of things, particularly protcol and methodology of police investigation. In fact, they disagree on just about everything. However, when they come up against Reese Feldman, a drug dealing wannabee who has developed cocaine that is impervious to regular detection, things begin to change.
Vince Vaughn, another Phillips film alum, plays Feldman as a slick, polished crook who desperately wants to leap from the ranks of dealer to gangster. His arrogance, cruelty and showmanship are matched equally by Starsky and Hutch’s blundering as they try to bring him down. It is this battle with Feldman that provides the impetus for the two to bond.
The streets of Bay City are tough and mean. To be an effective cop there, you need to break the rules and occasionally look the other way. Hutch does this frequently, most often with the aid of a slick informant named Huggy Bear. Although Huggy Bear is a crook with fingers in many pots, he is, at heart, a decent guy.
As Huggy Bear, Snoop Dogg steals Starsky & Hutch. Mr. Dogg has a knack for comedy. His timing is perfect and he works well in a variety of scenes. He plays Huggy Bear as a lovable lothario who is sly, funny, and droll and always looking after himself. Despite the comedic aspect, his performance drives the film.
One of the reasons why Starsky & Hutch works is its ensemble cast, highlighted by Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Wilson and Stiller are affable onscreen; the two, who have previously paired onscreen in six films, clearly enjoy working together. Throughout Starsky & Hutch their comedic timing is impeccable. Stiller provides the perfect comedic foil for Owen Wilson’s easygoing, dumbfounded Hutch. Wilson lightens the mood when things start to drag. The key to this film is their ability to make you like these characters and forget their ’70s era predecessors. Despite their onscreen bickering, Stiller and Wilson engender Starsky and Hutch with a genuine sense of friendship.
Another reason why this film is a winner is because Todd Phillips rounded out the cast with talented people. Juliette Lewis and Molly Sims play the two women in Feldman’s life. Lewis is particularly fun as Kittie, a naïve young starlet who believes her man really cares about her. Will Farrell (who previously worked with Phillips in Old School) is hysterical. He provides light moments as a convict who acts as a go between for dastardly drug dealer Feldman. Carmen Electra and Amy Smart round out the cast, as sexy, young cheerleeder girlfriends who get Starsky and Hutch closer to Feldman.
We live in an era of cinema where Hollywood doesn’t make original movies anymore. Instead, they take the shortcut of mining comics, books and old TV shows for big box office dollars. Although Starsky & Hutch follows this pattern it is a film with a plot, characters and a sense of charm about it. Plus it is a whole lot of fun!
It is interesting to note that nearly twenty years after it carved a niche as a landmark television drama series, Starsky & Hutch has returned to carve a niche as an action comedy. The film has set in motion a chain of events that will undoubtedly cause renewed nostalgic interest in the Ford Gran Torino, bellbottoms and eight track tapes.
Phillips makes the film funnier by having it self-reference the TV series. He brings back the Gran Torino. He also re-uses some of the camera shots that appeared in the series’ opening credits. Plus, there is a fun scene where Hutch is playing an old David Soul hit on guitar. This is of course topped off with cameos from Soul himself along with Paul Michael Glaser.
The guilty pleasure of Starsky & Hutch is that despite appearing so serious and straight-laced, it works as a comedy. Despite being set in the 1970s, there is more to Starsky & Hutch than that infamous Gran Torino, or offbeat jokes and pretty girls. Refreshingly Stiller, Wilson and Phillips have birthed not just another action comedy or a wacky cop flick, but a fun, ironic romp of kitsch that anyone can enjoy. Their hard week has paid off though because Starsky & Hutch are back on the beat!
Starsky And Hutch Movie: http://starskyandhutchmovie.warnerbros.com/