Starsky & Hutch (2004)
Main cast: Ben Stiller (David Starsky), Owen Wilson (Ken Hutchinson), Snoop Dogg (Huggy Bear), Fred Williamson (Captain Doby), Vince Vaughn (Reese Feldman), and Juliette Lewis (Kitty)
Director: Todd Phillips

Starsky & Hutch is one of those very average male buddy movies that has maybe two good jokes and very little else. This movie has the advantage of being based very loosely on a popular TV series, thus taking advantage of the audience's nostalgia to garner itself the goodwill it does not deserve. After all, this Starsky & Hutch is very different from the TV series and it is ten times less enjoyable to boot.

Set as a prologue to the TV series, this movie chronicles how the overly-serious by-the-book cop David Starsky and the maverick cop Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson meet. Their superior, Captain Doby, is reprimanding them both (Starsky for firing three bullets and injuring a few passers-by while trying to track down a pickpocket, Hutch for gleefully taking part in a series of armed robbery while being "undercover") when he decides that these two are better off paired together. The discovery of a corpse floating on the river leads the two to clash against drug kingpin Reese Feldman who is manufacturing the "new Coke" - sweeter than the old Coke, without the smell that will draw out the police dogs, and enough nudge-wink to let the slower members of the audience get the whole joke about Coke. Playing roles that are nothing more than glorified cameos are Juliette Lewis as Reese's dumb mistress, Carmen Electra as one of the two cheerleaders Hutch takes advantage of by dousing them with the new Coke, Snoop Doggy Dogg as the dandy crime boss Huggy Bear, and an uncredited Will Farrell as a "dragon"-obsessed convict.

The cast manages to deliver what little the script demands of them. But while Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson make a good buddy team with decent chemistry, the movie fails to take advantage of this chemistry. Instead, it puts Starsky and Hutch through a painfully unfunny series of pitfalls and misadventures that become more sadistic and unnerving as the frenzied pitch of slapstick tomfoolery only increases with time. It is bad enough that this movie wants me to laugh at two cops shooting indiscriminately in public while beating up their suspects left and right, it also wants to glorify and celebrate Starsky and Hutch's ineptness as something fun to cheer on.

While this movie retains some barely recognizable elements from the TV series like Starsky's love affair with his hideous car, the costumes and sets are garish that this movie feels like an expensive movie where lots of money is spent trying to recreate the atmosphere of a cheap porn movie of the 1970s. Those sleazy moustache, those awful disco outfits, the amusing celebration of a form of heterosexual machoness that is exclusively associated with only the gay culture today - ah, those were the days, huh? But this movie is very self-conscious of its jokes. It is hard to laugh at the deliberately camped-up homoerotic relationship between Starsky and Hutch (which is driven home subtly like a blow of a jackhammer on my head via some bad jokes and matching "Starsky & Hutch" T-shirts) and the garishness of the 1970s (via a prolonged and unfunny disco showdown scene) when nothing about this movie comes off as spontaneous.

A really nice cameo by the original Starsky and Hutch, Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, only makes me dislike the current garish and overly slapstick movie incarnation of Starsky & Hutch even more.

As a buddy cop movie, the script is formulaic and predictable, right down to the predictable "break up" at a critical moment that leads to the "reunion" just in time for those two to kick the bad guy's butt. So take away the TV series connection, and this movie will be nothing more than a very predictable and only occasionally amusing buddy action comedy with very little going for it.

Rating: 71

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