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"Starsky & Hutch"

Directed by Todd Phillips.
Written by John O'Brien, Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong. 
Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg and Vince Vaughn.
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  4/11/04 


After "Old School", I knew that whatever writer/director Todd Phillips gave us wouldn't measure up.

In the "Starsky & Hutch" film update of the 70's TV cop show, Phillips hits as often as he misses; in fact, because the comedy never reaches atmospheric proportions or joke-dud status, the film almost startles you in how average it is.  Ben Stiller stars as David Starsky, the prototypical loose cannon that drives a Gran Turino as his "undercover" car in Bay City, California.  (At least, I THINK it's California; I don't remember from the TV show, and the movie version of Bay City has shades of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.)  Starsky has, naturally, gone through 12 partners in the last four months or something like that, and his trigger-happy persona has led his boss, Captain Doby (blaxploitation hero Fred Williamson), to assign him a new partner:  Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (Owen Wilson), the laid-back member of the crew that is occasionally shady in his interpretation of law enforcement.

The two team up, and after discovering a body washed up on the beach, they learn of a coke deal going down involving local thug Reece Feldman (Vince Vaughn) and attempt to go undercover to get the scoop on the big deal.  In between, they get some help from Hutch's buddy Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), who has the occasional street tip for the dynamic duo during their investigation to take down the bad guys.

The first 20 minutes of "Starsky & Hutch" almost put me to sleep, there was so little going on...the opening scene with Vaughn's character wasn't funny, wasn't evil, and wasn't interesting in the slightest.  Meeting the lead characters didn't get much better; you could hear some guy's Casio going off in the back of the theater, it was so quiet after some of the jokes laid out to dry on screen.  After the investigation gets going, and the two mismatched cops start to become a little more friendly, "Starsky & Hutch" gives us some life; we get some more Vaughn (although, on the whole, Phillips and his co-writers failed to give us enough of him, much like in "Old School"), we get Will Ferrell as a gay biker fetishist and we get to look at Carmen Electra do...anything, so at least there's something to look at while Stiller and Wilson pal around.

The action in the movie mostly blows; of course, this correctly mimics the TV show, which features mostly stationary shootouts, the occasional chase scene or the car/house/boat explosion, the staple of the TV show that is my most vivid memory of watching any "Starsky & Hutch" episode.  The line

"Hey Starsky, do you smell gaso--"

followed by a large explosion was so comedic that Gordon and I used to say it all the time back at UVA.  On the big screen, though, you're looking for a good shootout or two, like there was in the "S.W.A.T." update...but, they're just not here.

Wilson and Stiller have been in roughly 20% of the films released since the start of last year, and their overexposure is starting to frighten me.  To think that there are literally four more Ben Stiller films coming out this year frightens me even more.  Hopefully, they'll be more interesting than "Starsky & Hutch", a film with some good comedic moments but nothing I'll ever need to see again.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09