Monday, 6 April 2009

Movie Review - Starsky and Hutch (2004)

Let me make it known from the start, I don’t remember ever having seen even a single episode of the original TV series of Starsky and Hutch, so you won’t find any comparisons to it here. What I can tell you is that it’s a very entertaining and enjoyable film, though I felt it could have been even better.

Starring Ben Stiller as the totally straight-laced cop (except when he’s driving) David Starsky, while Owen Wilson is the rather more criminally-minded cop (as in he doesn’t mind augmenting his pay checks with the occasional illegal profit) Ken Hutchinson (or “Hutch”, as “Hutchinson” just isn’t cool…) Due to the law that says all detective partnerships on film shall always be made up of diametrically opposite cops, they of course end up being partners.

Fred Williamson plays Captain Doby, who is not very amused by what the pair get up to. Hutch has an informant on the wrong side of the law (but with a good heart) called Huggy Bear, played wonderfully by Snoop Dogg (I can’t stand him normally but he’s brilliantly cast in this role.) There’s a bad guy called Reese Feldmen (Vince Vaughn), and a plot to smuggle cocaine on a scale never before imagined. There are also a couple of Cheerleaders who take a shine to our Detective friends, Holly (Amy Smart) and Staci (Carmen Electra). And all the normal stunts and plot devices you would expect from a tongue-in-cheek detective show.

The film is pretty funny throughout, with good on-screen chemistry between Stiller and Wilson (who both do very well in their parts, though Stiller particularly impresses), and a couple of very funny moments. However, the film had the potential to be a lot funnier than it was – the main problem is that the pacing is slightly off track. However there’s certainly plenty to enjoy here. Snoop Dogg and his cronies were hilarious, and he gets the best line of the film when he looks at Starsky’s car: “You’ve just gone up a notch in my book. That puts you up to notch one.” (He also got the second best line - when asked what people did in Big Earl’s Biker Bar, his reply was: “Croquet, play darts, whatever it is that you white people do”.) The whole thing is done with tongue firmly in cheek, and this added to the feel-good nature of the movie.
Apart from the one-liners and general cop humour there were also plenty of sight gags, one or two of which were inspired. Fred Williamson was also brilliant as the long-suffering Captain, and Vince Vaughn was effective as the baddy – hammy, true, but the role called for it. (Jason Bateman as his sidekick deserves some mention too – he is very good indeed but unfortunately his character was somewhat underused.) It’s a shame but none of the female characters were used to one iota of their comedic value – they were just there, fluttered their eyelids a few times, and that was it. Properly utilised they could have added so much more to the film, enjoyable though it was. (If you want a comparison to “Charlie’s Angels”, this was enjoyable whereas that was risible dross – anyone not quite sure how much I disliked that film can email me… :-O)

Such plot as there was held together okay, it was nothing special but not bad either. Special effects were good but the stunts were played for laughs as much as for the thrill factor. It has a good soundtrack and there’s a great twist at the end (just when the film seemed to have slowed right down). Watching this has even made my wife and I actually want to watch some of the original series. There were some moments of genuine originality, especially when Huggy Bear and his comrades are first introduced to the viewer. It could quite easily have been a 5-star film but due to slightly sloppy pacing, under-use of good characters, and a couple of plot inconsistencies marred it – not fatally, but enough to mean it was a good but not great film. It does create a real retro feel with the music, cars, clothes, and hairstyles (especially the hairstyles!), which also helps to make it enjoyable.

Starsky & Hutch will never be considered a film classic, but you will certainly enjoy watching it, and will still enjoy it on repeated viewing. I can’t say how much you will like it if you were a real fan of the original series, but I’m sure there are plenty of reviews here at epinions that will give you an idea!

The MPAA rating is PG-13 for drug content, sexual situations, partial nudity, language and some violence. When I saw it at the cinema it came up as a 15 rating. While there were a couple of moments not suitable for children it really wasn’t any worse than most of the 12-rated films I’ve seen recently.

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