1 item from 1999
When it came time to give "The Mod Squad" the big-screen treatment, there were a few options.
The movie version could be (a) set in the late 1960s counterculture like the TV series; (b) contemporized with a late 1990s spin; or (c) given the satirical "Austin Powers" fish-out-of-water treatment with, everybody's favorite hippie cops suddenly finding themselves having to cope on the cusp of a new millennium.
As it turned out, the filmmakers went with (b), as in boring, turning out a dull, stone-faced, listless approximation of the original minus the Nehru collars, the afros, the groovy music and the other happening touches that gave the otherwise generic crime series its pop flavor.
Stripped of its spirit and weighted down with countless scenes of mind-numbing introspection, this "Mod Squad" will likely have to amend its old "no badges, no guns" credo with the words "no audience."
Taking over where Michael Cole, Clarence Williams III and Peggy Lipton left off, Giovanni Ribisi, Omar Epps and Claire Danes are Pete, Linc and Julie, respectively, a trio of juvies on probation who are recruited by fatherly Capt. Adam Greer (Dennis Farina) to infiltrate the seedy Southern California drug and crime scene.
Pete, as before, is the troubled rich kid who was booted out of his Beverly Hills home and subsequently nabbed for breaking and entering. Linc, now from the 'hood (formerly the ghetto), has been charged with arson; while reformed drug addict Julie (once the runaway daughter of a San Francisco hooker) was brought in for assault.
Their assignment is to work undercover in the kind of establishments where the scourge of society preys on the impressionable young. But when a cache of drugs goes AWOL from the police lock-up and Capt. Greer turns up dead, the kids suddenly have to fend for themselves.
The picture's corrupt cop plot line (credited writers include director Scott Silver & Stephen Kay and Kate Lanier) is so tired and uninspired that even the characters comment on it. Both script and direction cry out for a hefty shot of adrenalin.
And while Danes, Ribisi and Epps are all proven, capable actors, here they're all hopelessly unconvincing as streetwise delinquents. They might as well be doing a production of "The Mod Squad: The School Play".
Certainly their written characters, as such, aren't much help. Although Ribisi's Pete has been outfitted with a short fuse that provides a little comic relief, both Danes' Julie and particularly Epps' Linc have been given precious little in the way of defining personalities.
The supporting players, including Farina, Josh Brolin as a potential flame from Julie's past and Richard Jenkins as an adversarial detective, find themselves in the same, uncharted boat. Only Michael Lerner gets to have a little fun as an oddball, drug-dealing music talent manager.:
At least "The Mod Squad" gets the desired visual tone right thanks to Ellen Kuras' ("Swoon") edgy camerawork; while the audio end is given a jittery alterno-techno-hip hop hybrid courtesy of composer BC Smith and an eclectic song mix that includes contributions from Busta Rhymes, Bjork, Curtis Mayfield and the Crash Test Dummies.
THE MOD SQUAD
Executive producers: Aaron Spelling, David Ladd
Based on characters created by: Buddy Ruskin
Director: Scott Silver
Producers: Men Myron, Alan Riche, Tony Ludwig
Screenwriters: Stephen Kay & Scott Silver and Kate Lanier
Director of photography: Ellen Kuras
Production designer: Patrick Sherman
Editor: Dorian Harris
Costume designer: Arianne Phillips
Music: BC Smith
Music supervisor: Randy Gerston
Casting: Christine Sheaks
Julie: Claire Danes
Linc: Omar Epps
Pete: Giovanni Ribisi
Capt. Adam Greer: Dennis Farina
Billy Waites: Josh Brolin
Det. Briggs: Steve Harris
Det. Robert Mothershed: Richard Jenkins
Howard: Michael Lerner
Running time -- 94 minutes
MPAA rating: R
1 item from 1999
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