- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Todd Phillips’ “Starsky & Hutch” has its flaws, but the kitschy cop show on which it’s based isn’t exactly a prestigious source. No one, I trust, will be clamoring for a “faithful reproduction of the original series,” just as no one minded the liberties taken with the “Charlie’s Angels” and “Brady Bunch” movie adaptations.

Mr. Phillips, a bepermed Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have their way with the characters of David Starsky and Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson, the Bay City, Calif., blue boys who fought crime in America’s living rooms for a few years in the late ‘70s.

Fitness freak Starsky (Mr. Stiller) is now saddled with a mother fixation, and Hutch (Mr. Wilson) is turned into an aspiring playboy with questionable policing methods. The two become partners after Captain Doby (blaxploitation icon Fred Williamson) can think of nothing better to do with the underperforming detectives.

Running well over parodic comedy’s 90-minute sweet spot, the “Starsky & Hutch” sendup takes too long to get warm. Working with a squad of story hacks, “Old School” dean Mr. Phillips’ normally keen ear for joke timing is clogged with too much setup and too little payload.

All the fixings are there. The funny clothes, the bad hair, the funk-and-soul soundtrack and wah-wah guitar score; the camera zoom-ins and freeze frames. (I wasn’t alive for much of the ‘70s, so maybe you can explain why, precisely, it was thought that an extreme close-up of a tire on a car in hot pursuit was exciting.)

Yet for the first act, Mr. Phillips and cinematographer Barry Peterson do little more than hang all the set pieces in a gallery of TV crime schlock.

The villain here, Reese Feldman, is played by the dependably funny Vince Vaughn, basically reprising his “Old School” role as a jerk-entrepreneur and doting father, except that in Bay City he’s a drug lord and, for added measure, Jewish. The resurgent Jason Bateman is wasted as Feldman’s lackey, Friday, while Juliette Lewis is given a skimpy role as Feldman’s mistress, Kitty.

Not until a, shall we say, revealing locker-room interrogation of a cheerleader and an accidental cocaine binge, which sends straight-arrow Starsky into a disco-dancing fever, do the hits start outnumbering the misses.

With the help of two free-loving floozies (Amy Smart and Carmen Electra) and well-placed snitch Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), as well as a certain “Old School” alum whom I won’t reveal, Starsky and Hutch begin cracking the Feldman cocaine empire, despite their meager sleuthing skills.

Whatever your opinion of the original “Starsky & Hutch” — I’m assuming Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul never had you in stitches — this one at least has the bonus of making you feel glad it’s 2004.

**

TITLE: “Starsky & Hutch”

RATING: PG-13 (Sexual content, partial nudity; drug use; profanity; action violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Todd Phillips. Produced by William Blinn, Stuart Cornfeld, Akiva Goldsman, Tony Ludwig and Alan Riche. Characters by Mr. Blinn. Story by Stevie Long and John O’Brien. Screenplay by Mr. Phillips, Mr. O’Brien and Scot Armstrong. Cinematography by Barry Peterson.

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes.

WEB SITE: http://starskyandhutchmovie.-warnerbros.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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