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Adrian Mackinder

Published March 19th, 2004 | by Adrian Mackinder

Starsky & Hutch Review

Classification: 12 Director: Todd Phillips

Now that Hollywood has officially decided that for every original idea there needs to be a rehashed, revamped and reworked cinematic version of a hit television show, we have been served up a big screen outing for Bay City’s favourite cardigan-wearing, Torino driving cops. Trouble is, these remakes are usually awful.

I don’t think I’m writing out of turn here. Think the big screen versions of The Avengers, both Flintstones, Scooby Doo, The Beverly Hillbillies (both of you who have seen it anyway) and you’ll be remembering a string of howlers. OK, so the first Addams Family film was good, and Charlie’s Angels had some sort of kitch charm, but as a rule, they stink.

Well, fortunately, Starsky & Hutch is an exception and also a bit of a gem, thanks to a very funny script, lashings of retro cool and brilliant chemistry between Ben Stiller as the uptight jobsworth David Starsky (Ben Stiller) and laidback waster Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson).

The plot doesn’t really bear thinking about. It’s not important here. On the sun-soaked streets of 1970’s Bay City, California, crimelord and wealthy businessman Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn – in a spectacular handlebar tache that would make him instantly eligible for passing unnoticed in a Village People appreciation convention), is peddling a new brand of cocaine that is untraceable but when he bumps off one of his hired goons, the body washes up in the juristriction of newly buddied up cops Starsky and Hutch, and the rest is a damn funny romp through everything that was right about big hair and enormous cars. Helping them out is an excellently cast Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear and along the way we meet a string of near-nude women, notably that fine method actor Carmen Electra as one of the potential witnesses.

Part of the reason this film succeeds is because it manages to be both an affectionate mickey-take of the television show as well as glorifying everything that was cool about the era in which it was filmed. Instead of remaking the series poker-faced and setting it in 2004, the film makers have kept the action back in the seventies and sure enough all the afros, flairs, funky music and even their absolutely magnificent car from the original series are present and correct. If director Todd Phillips had done to this what Soderberg did to Ocean’s Eleven then it would have just been another buddy cop flick, but as it stands it is a near perfect piece of nostalgia, without seeming tired. The film has so much energy and attention to detail that scenes involving Starsky jumping from rooftop to rooftop chasing crooks or the pair of them driving down an alley into a massive and inexplicably-placed pile of cardboard boxes don’t come across as lazy pastiches; rather they blend in with the action as if you’re seeing this kind of nonsense for the first time.

As has been seen from Zoolander, both Stiller and Wilson can carry off ridiculous garments as if it’s their everyday wardrobe and here they surpass themelves without it seems, breaking into a sweat. Indeed, out of all their film collaborations, this is their finest partnership to date. Both have been confirmed as great physical comedians, but they are helped in no small amount by a crackingly witty script that crams in as many intelligent verbal quips as it does dumb sight gags. Snoop Dogg has the highly taxing job of playing himself and he carries that off with aplomb, and Vince Vaughn is suitably slimy as Feldman. The only underused talent here is Juliette Lewis as Feldman’s bit on the side. It’s almost as if she just wanted to come along for the ride, but when it’s as fun, funny and exciting as this, who can blame her?


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