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Friday, March 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Movie Review
'Starsky and Hutch': A funny skit stretched 92 minutes too long

By Mark Rahner
Seattle Times staff reporter

TRACY BENNETT / WARNER BROS.
Owen Wilson, left, as Hutch, Ben Stiller as the big-sweater-loving Starsky and Raymond Ma as Chau in the disappointing remake of '70s TV's "Starsky & Hutch."
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TV series was the 'school of cool' for millions of fans in the '70s
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If there were an EPA regulating the strip-mining of old TV shows, the big-screen sendup of "Starsky & Hutch" would fall somewhere in the middle between the Exxon Valdez spill of "I Spy" and the pitch-perfect "Brady Bunch Movie."

Resplendent in a Fu Manchu 'stache and curly hair, drug kingpin Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) tells a cohort to calm down and "Take a 'lude or something." Or a coke and a smile: He's got the perfect scheme to move a new kind of odorless, undetectable blow.

When the body of Feldman's harshly disciplined underling washes ashore at "Bay City," new detective partners Starsky (Ben Stiller) and Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) roll up in the former's preposterous red-and-white Gran Torino to investigate, banter, swagger, go undercover in silly disguises and make it with foxes.

The movie recreates all the trappings of the iconic '70s buddy-cop show: big hair, headbands, an AMC Pacer parked on the street, open silk shirts and pendants. Just the sight of them is still good for a laugh, as tired as that wave of nostalgia has gotten. (How long has "That '70s Show" been on the air?)

Movie review


Showtimes and trailer

**
"Starsky & Hutch," with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Snoop Dogg. Directed by Todd Phillips, from a screenplay by Phillips, John O'Brien and Scot Armstrong. 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 for drug content, sexual situations, partial nudity, language and some violence. Several theaters.

Director Todd ("Old School") Phillips' next movie, by the way, is a "Six Million Dollar Man" spoof with Jim Carrey.

But apart from wardrobe (including Starsky's horrific big sweater) and hair, the two heroes completely miss the spirit that made the original spark.

Stiller plays Starsky as an uptight rule freak with a perpetual look of simian confusion. Well, he does nail Paul Michael Glaser's spastic, arm-flailing style of running. And Wilson, who was also in "I Spy" and seriously needs to stop making buddy action comedies, plays himself, a laid-back surfer type with a corrupt streak. His moment: singing David Soul's hit, "Don't Give Up On Us."

The fairly inspired casting is of Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear, a much more pimped-out version of the partners' shady informant; and blaxploitation hero Fred Williamson as their exasperated Captain Dobey. I'd always thought the show had one foot firmly entrenched in that genre — hey, the director of the pilot also did "Across 110th Street."

The plot plays out more or less like an episode of the show, and there are a few hilarious bits, including one in which Starsky and Hutch go to question a suspect and get perforated by his knife-hurling kid. But there are just as many misfires. When an accidentally coked-up Starsky challenges a dude to a disco dance-off, the result is long and excruciating.
 
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This would have made a brilliant segment on Stiller's old sketch comedy show, but it drags stretched over 97 minutes. Especially when the filmmakers again and again mine the homoerotic angle of the partners' friendship. Yeah, yeah, I've heard the one about Batman and Robin, too. Still, you'd have to be a real turkey not to laugh at a scene with Starsky and Hutch shaving in the locker room wearing just little towels and shoulder holsters.

It doesn't spoil anything to tell that Soul and Glaser make an appearance. But the clumsy way it's handled will pull you right out of the movie. So does the audience cheer they get, which makes the preceding riff on them seem slightly unworthy, like a happenin' pair of bell bottoms with a little belt.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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