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1 item from 1999

Film review: 'The Mod Squad'

26 March 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

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.



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


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