Starsky & Hutch

| March 8, 2004

Before I launch into my review of Starsky and Hutch, I have a few confessions to make.
I think Owen Wilson is hilarious, and I’ve loved him ever since I saw an advance screening of Bottle Rocket. I think Ben Stiller is funny but a bit forced and one-note with his humor. I think Vince Vaughn is underrated, I think Old School is fantastic, and I’ve never seen a single episode of the original Starsky and Hutch TV series.
I’m not sure any of that matter when it comes to this movie. I doubt that most of the people who packed the theater have ever seen the show either. Besides, it’s definitely unfair to compare a spoofish comedy based around mocking the style of the ’70s to a once-gritty time-specific drama about mismatched cops and their hot rod. Regardless, I have no frame of reference with which to make such a comparison, so I’ll just stick to the movie.
It stinks.
If it matters to you, or you didn’t already know, Stiller plays Starsky, a cop version of his normal character, an uptight anal prig. Owen Wilson, who can elicit laughs with just a tweak of his lines, plays Hutch, a cop version of his normal character, a carefree slacker type. They get paired by their captain and become friends while working a drug smuggling ring headed up by Vince Vaughn, and does little with the little he’s given.
The plot is minor and the jokes are few. Snoop Dogg plays Hugg E. Bear, the local pimp turned snitch who helps the duo protect his city from violent criminals while he engages in never-seen but surely-there shenanigans of his own. None of this matters and none of it should – if the movie is funny. But it’s not.
At times it feels like Austin Powers 4, with weak gags based on the 70s and some over-the-top moments that fall flat on contact. Wilson’s charm is intact, and Stiller has a few instances where his shtick works, but mostly the movie’s a dull dud. Even Will Ferrell’s cameo, no matter how hard he tries, fails to deliver.
Director Todd Phillips certainly has a stable of actors that he can call on for his next few movies, but he’d be better served to whip up something more topical and fresh rather than another spoof of a short-lived fad. The Brady Bunch movies worked, to a point, because most of the inside jokes were accessible to everyone. We all watched The Brady Bunch. In Starsky and Hutch, most of the jokes are surface-level, and the ones that cut deeper don’t connect with the audience that’s there to see Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

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