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STARSKY AND HUTCH

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis, Snoop Dogg
Director: Todd Phillips
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: July 20, 2004

“I like your Lincoln.”

“It’s a ’76. Won’t be out ‘til next year. But I know some people that know some people that robbed some people.”

Film ***1/2

With just about every popular TV series from the past three decades being remade into a big screen release, it seems as though the iconic 70s cop show Starsky and Hutch should’ve been remade years ago. One could assume that either no one wanted to go near the possibility of a movie version, feeling that it could never be taken seriously. How, then, would Bay City’s most eccentric cop duo ever see the light of day on the big screen?

It would seem that the only way to go about making the show into a movie would be to sort of spoof it. Thankfully, director Todd Phillips (Old School, Road Trip) took that notion into account. With the casting of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, it was clear that the comic route was the only way to go. It’s precisely what makes Starsky and Hutch one of the better and brighter TV show updates. Much in the spirit of both of The Brady Bunch movies, it’s both a celebration of the show, as well as an unapologetic lampoon of just about everything the show exploited, including all of tired clichés that find their way into every cop movie.

The setting is that of Bay City at some point in the 70s. Stiller and Wilson star, in what was reportedly their sixth movie together, in the lead roles of cops David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson. Where as the show began with the two working as partners from the start, the movie reveals how they were possibly assigned together to begin with.

Starsky is an uptight, but very dedicated street cop whose extreme by-the-book methods aren’t sitting well with Capt. Dobey (Fred Williamson). Hutch, on the other hand, seems to play by his own rules. Usually dealing in undercover work, Hutch works his way through numerous bank robbing gangs, not to make a bust per se, but to get what he can since he feels he isn’t getting paid a lot in the first place. Needless to say, Hutch’s shady actions aren’t sitting well with the captain, either.

Feeling as if they were really meant for each other, the captain assigns them as partners. The latest case they find themselves upon is the discovery of a dead body which washed up ashore in the bay. Their clues lead their suspicions to that of Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), a rich businessman who also happens to double as a major coke distributor. He’s even developed a revolutionary form of cocaine; one which has a sweet taste to it and can’t be detected by police dogs.

In between the drug deal case, which would possibly serve as something of a traditional plot scenario for an S&H TV episode, are some hysterically funny moments. Many of them include appearances from some surprise guest appearances.

One scene involves a visit to a prison, where a possible connection of Reese’s (Will Ferrell) forces the two cops to do a special favor in exchange for information. Another funny moment is when the two are dodging knives at the hand of a little boy. A later scene has Starsky and Hutch disguise as mimes, as they infiltrate their suspect’s daughter’s bahmitzvah, which results in a riotous moment involving an animal (think of the headless bird scene in Dumb and Dumber, and you’ll have a good idea of what I mean). The sight of Hutch entertaining some women with the crooning of David Soul’s very one hit wonder, “Don’t Give Up on Us Baby” simply has to be seen.

Perhaps the capper of the entire movie is the two's climatic effort to bring their suspect down. To do this, they have to infiltrate an auction, in yet another disguise. This scene leads to a car chase that ends with possibly the funniest sight gag I’ve seen in a long time. Those who’ve seen 2 Fast 2 Furious, which included an incredibly outrageous stunt where a car landed on a moving boat, will most likely appreciate this sequence just as I did.

I haven’t even mentioned perhaps the most memorable character of the original series. Of course, I’m referring to Huggy Bear, the local pimp/informant. Snoop Dogg is most appealing in the single character he was ever so destined to play. Eye-catching beauties Carmen Electra and Amy Smart spice things up as cheerleaders who catch the cops’ attention. Last but not least, the series’ most treasured element, Starsky’s red and white Ford Gran Torino, does make a most visual impression, much like it did in the original series.

With Starsky and Hutch, director Phillips has delivered his funniest film yet, in the wake of the good but slightly overrated Old School. With Stiller, Wilson, and Vince Vaughn all in supreme game mode, this tribute/spoof of the popular TV show adds up to what is very much one of the best comedy offerings of the year.

BONUS: Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, the original Starsky and Hutch, pop up in the movie’s last scene.

Video ****

Warner’s anamorphic transfer is nothing short of astonishing, resulting in one of the year’s best looking releases! Not since Boogie Nights has a movie conveyed the look and feel of the 70s to a full effect. Like the time period itself the movie is high on style, and every scene is given a terrific level of detail in terms of crisp imagery and all around clarity. Colors are especially a true highpoint, appearing as lush and natural as anything you’ll ever see on the screen. Not a single flaw of any sort detected. The presentation is absolutely stunning to look at.

Audio ****

Although mostly a comedy, Starsky and Hutch contains just about every element to make a strong sounding presentation, which very much defines the 5.1 mix provided. The numerous bits of action and chases, as well as the 70s disco/rock soundtrack compilation (a scene set in a disco club is especially effective), in addition to the upbeat score courtesy of Theodore Shapiro, are delivered with sharp sounding precision. Dialogue is clean, and the level of range is ever so present. An all around lively and well-realized audio performance!

Features ***1/2

Quite a perfect mixture of extras to accompany this release. First off, there’s a commentary track with director/co-writer Todd Phillips, some deleted scenes, “Fashion Fa Shizzle Wit Huggy Bizzle”, a special insight into fashions with Snoop Dogg, a making-of mockumentary titled “Last Look”, and a trailer.

Summary:

Starsky and Hutch is comedy dynamite. The perfect pairing of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson help this action packed laughfest standout in the realm of TV show movie remakes. Kudos, as well, to Warner for delivering a most outstanding DVD presentation.