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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Thankfully, Starsky & Hutch owes more to the Brady Bunch/Galaxy Quest
of TV spoof -- the fond homage -- rather than the soulless rip-off that
or S.W.A.T. On top of that, S&H forgoes the big screen remake approach and
manages to imbue this movie with a kind of intimate, small screen charm
There's not much in the SPFX department -- a little green screen on a lizard's tail maybe -- just stunt driving and disco dancing and coo l characters. It occurred to me that this sort of 70's, character-based TV has given way to the "ensemble drama" where the characters are secondary and the formula is the star. Hence you can set CSI or Law and Order in any city and serve up a variety of interchangeable casts to populate your formula.
To make it palatable to an audience who doesn't give a damn whether this remake is anything like the original, the char acters have been polarized and exaggerated to turbo-charge the humor. Paul Mic hael Glaser's intense David Starsky, in Ben Stiller's hands is "Mr Furiou s", a by-the-book cop struggling against the legacy of his Supercop mother. Owen Wilson takes Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson a few steps further along the continuum of laid-back, nordic detachment, becoming a Wilson-esque drifter who comfortably straddles both sides of the law. Thus he becomes the perfect pacifier for his frenetic partner.
All the original elements are present and exaggerated. The on-screen chemistry between the leads, the innocent and endearing homoerotica, the cool Ford Gran Torino and its balletic skid turns, the busty cheerleaders and the smooth and charming, leisure-suited villains. Played straight down the middle, all the humor emerges from the guileless seriousness of it all, the charming simplicity of a more innocent time.
In an age before AIDs, Terrorism and political correctness, Starsky and Hutch tough talk, rough house and sleep their way through a daisy chain of leads and informants, on the trail of a massive shipment of artificial coke , which mimics the real stuff in effect, but is undetectable to police labs or sniffer dogs. Starsky and Hutch take their polar-opposite characters into each new situation, and their infamous buddycop chemistry manages to keep them stumbling along in vaguely the right direction. The unlikely tableaus -- scenes like the holsters and handtowels, the attractive informant disrobing during her interview, the undercover mime artists and the ridiculous disguises are mostly lifted directly from the original series and tweaked only a little for laughs. Starsky still doesn't like Hutch eating in the Torino and Hutch still lives in his little Venice villa with his indian hemp throw rugs and healthy milkshakes. Stiller especially has worked hard on his little Starsky-esque codifiers, the bow-legged swagger, the hyperactive twitchiness, right down to the I Ching necklace and silver pinkie ring -- little touches that 95 percent of the audience will never recognize. Starsky & Hutch is populated by the usual Stiller/Wilson family singers. Vince Vaughn is delicious perfection as the bad guy/drug-dealer/family man and Wil Ferrel is the ad-libbed Saturday Night Live skit character with eccentric sexual tendencies and a penchant for Dragons.
Out of our Easter weekend audience I think most were in their twenties or below, and so David Soul's one and only pop hit, "Don't Give up on us, Baby" has never been played in their lifetime. And yet our audience seemed to "get" the fondly self-referential humor and ridiculous situations, if all the guffawing was anything to go by. There was a group of teenaged girls behind us who choked a n d hyperventilated so much during the Wil Ferrell "interrogation" scene I thought the y'd have to be put on oxygen.
As a huge fan of the original series I should have found all this insulting, predictable and groan-enducing, but instead it was nostalgic and endearing. As much as I love specials effects and action-packed blockbusters, I realized I miss these sorts of characters.
Of today's crop, only Monk is carrying the banner for quirky, character-based charm.