Opens Friday, February 27
For his follow-up to "Old School", director Todd Phillips has literally gone old school -- giving a comedy fuel injection to the mack daddy of 1970s cop shows (sorry, "Baretta"), "Starsky and Hutch".
The end result, which has gained an ampersand in the process, finds Phillips' comedy street cred (he also was responsible for 2000's "Road Trip") reasonably intact, and if it doesn't hit as many inspired highs as last year's smash, it still cruises along agreeably on the easy chemistry between Ben Stiller
and Owen Wilson
, who step in where Paul Michael Glaser
and David Soul
It's definitely a lot more fun than the last "Charlie's Angels" picture, another big-screen redo of a '70s Spelling-Goldberg production which has managed to occupy a place in the collective pop culture psyche.
Expect a huge payoff and at least one sequel for the Warner Bros. release (Dimension Pictures has it internationally), which will see Stiller build on that "Along Came Polly" momentum, while Wilson will be able to rebound from "The Big Bounce" and "I Spy".
Effectively laying down the groundwork for the enduring odd couple buddy cop vehicle, the ABC series, which originally aired between 1975-1979, served up a smooth mix of character-driven banter and gritty action.
It was ultimately deemed a little too gritty for the network's tastes, which ordered the violence toned down for the 1977-78 season.
No worries for the kinder, gentler, funnier 2004 version, in which Stiller's feverishly devoted, quick tempered Detective David Starsky is partnered with Wilson's more laidback, rules-bending Detective Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson in the investigation of a Bay City murder.
The trail of clues soon lead them to Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn
), a sadistic, polyester-clad businessman who has found a way to make cocaine undetectable by taste or smell.
But it will take more than a trunkful of disguises and a few spins in their trusty Ford Gran Torino (aka the Red Tomato) to successfully nail Feldman before he pulls off the biggest drug deal in the greater Bay City area.
Stiller has put his skills as an astute mimic to good use here, capturing the original Starsky's caffeine-enhanced body language. Wilson, on the other hand, is essentially playing his surfer-boy-self here, but it serves the character well, and after appearing in something like half a dozen movies together, the two have an easy give-and-take that's more Hope and Crosby than Matthau and Lemmon.
The smart casting also applies to the effectively utilized presence of Snoop Dogg
, who neatly slides into Antonio Fargas
' slick shoes as fly informant Huggy Bear
Also popping up are Will Ferrell
as a jailed associate of Vaughn's with a dragon fetish, Juliette Lewis as Vaughn's naive girlfriend on the side, Jason Bateman
as his lackey and Amy Smart
and Carmen Electra
as a pair of Bay City cheerleaders with a thing for cops.
Even the original Starsky and Hutch put in a final act appearance, and while the former looks more or less the same, the latter is barely recognizable from his "Don't Give up on Us" days.
Phillips, who contributed to the script along with his writing partner Scot Armstrong
and John O'Brien, keeps things clicking at a suitably low-tech pace, although some sharper actual writing and a little less improvising would have helped the picture over a few sluggish spots.
Behind-the-scenes, the '70s live again thanks to production designer Edward Verreaux's authentic interiors, costume designer Louise Mingenbach
's shudder-inducing threads and Theodore Shapiro
's evocative score which doesn't skimp on the wah-wah guitar.
Starsky & Hutch
Warner Bros. Pictures and Dimension Films present a Riche-Ludwig/Weed Road/Red Hour production of a Todd Phillips movie
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenwriters: John O'Brien, Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong
Story by: Stevie Long, John O'Brien
Based on characters created by: William Blinn
Producers: William Blinn
, Stuart Cornfeld
, Akiva Goldsman
, Tony Ludwig
, Alan Riche
Executive producer: Gilbert Adler
Director of photography: Barry Peterson
Production designer: Edward Verreaux
Editor: Leslie Jones
Costume designer: Louise Mingenbach
Music: Theodore Shapiro
Detective David Starsky: Ben Stiller
Detective Ken Hutchinson: Owen Wilson
Reese Feldman: Vince Vaughn
Kitty: Juliette Lewis
Huggy Bear: Snoop Dogg
Police Capt. Dobey: Fred Williamson
Staci: Carmen Electra
Holly: Amy Smart
Running time -- 100 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13