Starsky & Hutch
March 11, 2004
Starring: Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Fred Williamson, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis, Jason Bateman, Amy Smart, Carmen Electra, George Cheung, Chris Penn, Brande Roderick, Molly Sims, Matt Walsh, G.T. Holme, ,
Let’s be honest, most cinematic remakes of classic TV shows are awful. They either barely resemble the original (like the Claire Danes version of The Mod Squad) or turn it into kitsch parody (like The Flintstones). More often than not the contemporary update pales in comparison. As a result, there was a healthy dose of skepticism when a remake of Starsky and Hutch (2004) was announced. Would Hollywood ruin yet another vintage TV show?
Surprisingly, the movie is not an out-and-out parody but plays things fairly straight. It is set in the 1970s and actually has a story that one can follow instead of the typical M.O. of these kinds of films that simply string together a bunch of loosely connected comedic set pieces. Reese Feldman (Vaughn) is Bay City’s ruling criminal kingpin. He has created a brand of undetectable cocaine (dubbed “New Coke”—“It tastes sweet,” someone says at one point—a sly reference to the whole New Coke/Classic Coke debacle). When a criminal low-life is found floating dead in the bay, Starsky (Stiller) and Hutch (Wilson) are called in to investigate. Pretty soon they set their sights on Feldman and try to bring his operation down.
Starsky and Hutch is a vehicle tailor-made for Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s comedic talents. Stiller plays Starsky as an intense, by-the-book cop, while Wilson’s Hutch is the laid-back, loose cannon. You would think that after all of the films they’ve done together their schtick would have gotten old by now. However, they play so well off each other. Their comic timing is dead-on. The give and take of the dialogue between them is effortless and enjoyable to watch as the mellow Hutch constantly baits the easily flustered Starsky.
If there is a centerpiece comedic set-piece in the film it is probably the disco dance-off with a coked-up Starsky getting his groove on. Although, the set up to this scene is funnier as the cop unknowingly puts some of Feldman’s “New Coke” in his coffee, thinking its sugar, and starts buzzing furiously around Hutch’s pad, tweaked even more than usual—if that’s possible.
Another nice nod to ‘70s cinema is the casting of the legendary Fred “The Hammer” Williamson as Starsky and Hutch’s angry boss. There are times when they get him so angry that it seems like his eyes are going to pop out or he’s going to strangle them in frustration. Another bit of genius casting is Snoop Dog as Huggy Bear. If there was anyone born to play Huggy Bear, it’s Snoop. He glides effortlessly through the film in the typically laid-back style that Snoop has raised to an artform. He steals almost every scene he’s in.
The attention to period detail is excellent, from little things like Vince Vaughn’s cheesy ‘70s porno star moustache to the opening credits that directly quote the TV show. Much of the show’s instrumental music (which is a nice touch) is also used and this is mixed with some great period rock ‘n’ roll music from the likes of Brick, the Jackson 5 and Bill Withers. Hearing this music really takes one back to the ‘70s and only enhances the retro vibe that the movie is trying to achieve.
There is an audio commentary by director Todd Phillips. He states that his movie is a love letter to not just the show but to buddy cop movies in general. Phillips also talks about the conventions of the buddy cop genre and how he and the other writers played around with them. He dishes a lot of trivial factoids on this rather bland track.
“Fashion Fa Shizzle Wit Huggy Bizzle” is a brief tour of Huggy Bear’s funky retro outfits and stylin’ pimp wear with Snoop Dog. Not surprisingly, ol’ Snoop displays a real knowledge of ‘70s fashion.
“Last Look Special” gently makes fun of these kinds of puff promo pieces as Stiller, Wilson, et al “talk trash” about director Phillips. This is a fun, little extra.
There are several deleted scenes that run six minutes in total, including one that has Starsky lecturing Hutch about peeing in public. There are some funny bits here and it’s a shame that many of them were cut out.
There is also a five minute “Gag Reel” that is a slightly amusing collection of blown lines as the cast try hard to keep a straight face during certain scenes.
Finally, there is the obligatory theatrical trailer.
This is a movie that could have been so easy to screw up. It’s amazing that all involved did such a good job. They’ve created an entertaining and funny movie that pays homage to the classic TV series and yet also stands on its own. This is an excellent example of how to remake a TV show the right way.