Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Starsky and Hutch



USA 2004 : Todd PHILLIPS : 101 mins

Pointless, witless, would-be parody of the semi-legendary 1970s TV cop show seemingly made with the sole purpose of cashing-in on young cinemagoers hazy recollections of the original. Proper fans of the series (which was always a little more popular in the UK than the US), meanwhile, will be baffled: apart from Ben Stiller being shortish and dark, and Owen Wilson tallish and blond, the actors bear very little visual resemblance to Paul Michael Glaser (the original Dave Starsky) and David Soul (Ken Hutch Hutchinson) costume-designer Louise Mingenbachs contributions notwithstanding.

And Stiller and Wilson don’t behave much like Starsky and Hutch, either: its understandable that, when Glaser (well-preserved, as in Somethings Gotta Give) and Soul (rather more gone-to-seed) turn up at the very end, they seem, if anything, mildly annoyed. Because Stiller doesn’t play Dave Starsky here he delivers the Ben Stiller character we’ve seen in so many films stretching back at least as far as 1997s Zero Effect: neurotic, anal, nervy, square. Likewise, Wilson now seems similarly incapable of giving us anything other than his patented, trademarked, copyrighted Owen Wilson surf-dude persona.

Along with director Phillips and his fellow screenwriters (John OBrien, Scot Armstrong), both of these (currently severely-overexposed) stars miss the point of TVs Starsky and Hutch: that these blokes were actually fairly cool. This film tries to play everything for silly laughs – not an intrinsically bad idea, provided the results are sufficiently funny. But while the actors (including Snoop Dogg as ghetto-fab informer Huggy Bear) seem to be having a high old time, the audience doesn’t fare so well. The humour-quotient is disappointingly low mostly a series of tired visual and verbal gags strung around a sloppy excuse for a story in which drug-baron Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) discovers a new type of cocaine undetectable to sniffer-dogs.

The movies decent jokes are often as hard to locate as Feldmans coke Phillips last two features Road Trip and Old School, neither of them exactly masterpieces, are laugh-riots in comparison. (Even a brief cameo from Will Ferrell Old Schools unexpected comedy-star breakout fails to ignite much of a spark.) Starsky and Hutch also comes up short alongside Stiller and Wilsons last co-starring project, 2001s so-so Zoolander. Since when, Wilson has mostly slummed around in duds about mismatched duos: after I-Spy and Shanghai Knights, Starsky and Hutch is surely a case of three strikes and out. Wilson fans fingers must be firmly crossed that his upcoming reunion with Wes (Royal Tenenbaums) Anderson – The Life Aquatic will bring his career back to something approaching an even keel.

25th March, 2004
(seen 22nd March : UGC, Boldon)

by Neil Young