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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

'Starsky and Hutch' lacking in laughs

By Molly Bayrd
Executive Editor

Friday, March 19, 2004

For some, the mere joy of watching Owen Wilson (as Ken Hutchinson) and Ben Stiller (as David Starsky) prance along a beach in matching "Starsky and Hutch" T-shirts is entertainment enough to redeem a relatively mediocre film. For others, it's not. Simply put, "Starsky and Hutch" should be designated as rental-material only, primarily because it's well worth the $3 rental fee, but not worth the $7 admission price that most theaters charge.

Certainly "Starsky and Hutch," the big-screen remake of the popular 1970s television show, has some genuine laughs to offer. One scene in particular, which features Will Ferrell as a prison inmate with a rather unusual "dragon fetish," is guaranteed to bring a smile to even the most skeptical critic's face. Audiences should also watch for Ben Stiller's hilarious, drug-induced "disco dance-off."

Still, the film is lacking in many respects. Most of the humor seems forced (i.e. a scene in which Wilson commences a threesome by asking two women to kiss one another), and Vince Vaughn's comedic talent is, for the most part, wasted in his role as a cocaine-dealing playboy. And, while Snoop Doggy Dogg shines as the ever-eccentric Huggy Bear, his character seems much too serious and uptight when contrasted to his flashy, furry wardrobe.

Nevertheless, 2004's "Starsky and Hutch" has revitalized -- and made humorous -- an outdated cop-drama that was never intended to be funny in the first place. The original TV duo, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, even make a small cameo in the movie, providing what is likely the most authentic "Starsky and Hutch" moment in the film. Director Todd Phillips ("Old School") has used his artistic license wisely in choosing to make the film a comedy.

While the plot of the film is simple (Starsky and Hutch must crack down on a suspected drug dealer before he can distribute odorless cocaine to some of Bay City's most powerful drug lords), there are a few distracting elements that muddle its saliency. For example, continuous references to Starksy's mother are never fully explained, and Hutch's relationship with a neighborhood boy seems an extraneous subplot. Audiences may find themselves distracted or bored, especially if the "are-they-or-aren't-they" debate regarding the sexuality of the title characters becomes tiresome too early in the film.

Ultimately, the box-office fate of "Starsky and Hutch" lies in the hands of Stiller and Wilson's die-hard fans. Those who loved them in 2001's "The Royal Tenenbaums" will not be disappointed; Stiller especially impresses, reviving the brooding genius that he so skillfully displayed in "Tenenbaums." Wilson seems to be having a ball with his laid-back, devil-may-care role, and he and Stiller compliment each other perfectly.

"Starsky and Hutch" is a decent flick -- a perfect Friday night rental for anyone prone to laughing at (mostly) mediocre jokes or who simply enjoys watching Ben Stiller do tae kwon do on the beach.

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