Because I got such a kick out of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in Zoolander, I'm happy they're back on track in Starsky & Hutch -- especially after Stiller's disappointing turn in Along Came Polly and Wilson's lackluster performance in The Big Bounce. In this action comedy based on the popular TV cop series of the '70s, these two actors achieve very funny results by capitalizing on their special on-screen rapport once again.
Stiller portrays "by-the-book" Starsky, whose late mother was a legendary member of the Bay City police force. Naturally, he tries desperately to live up to mom's reputation, but his over-zealous behavior stands in his way. For example, Starsky is so eager to stop crime, he doesn't think twice about rushing to catch a nonexistent gum-ball machine bandit when his fellow officers decide to play a joke on him. Wilson's Hutch is an entirely different type of crime fighter, one who's not above taking money out of a corpse's wallet and keeping it for himself. Unlike Starsky, Hutch usually arrives late for work and doesn't take his job seriously. Poor Captain Doby (Fred Williamson). What can he do with these two misfits? Make them partners, of course.
Starsky and Hutch may disagree about how best to fight crime, but they both want to stop drug kingpin Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), who plans to distribute a new, hard-to-detect type of cocaine. Helping them in their efforts is Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg, wonderfully watchable here), a slightly shady informant. However, using ridiculous disguises which fool no one for long, these odd-couple partners get side-tracked by sexy cheerleaders, disco-dancing and their own relationship problems.
While there's no denying the celluloid chemistry between Stiller and Wilson, each actor also shines on his own. Stiller's Starsky comes across as a bundle of muscular tension (especially in scenes with his souped-up Gran Torino), so when he challenges a disco champion to a "dance-off," his terrific moves surprised and delighted me. And Wilson's Hutch, after faking modesty by claiming to be "just a guy with a guitar up here," sings in such a pleasant voice I wanted to hear more.
Although not a fan of the original series, watching this entertaining Starsky & Hutch movie version made me nostalgic for the seventies -- its disco music, outlandish fashions, even The Brady Bunch. Hmm. Guess I'll have to check out That 70s Show on TV after all.
(Released by Warner Bros. and Dimension Films; rated "PG-13" for drug content, sexual situations, partial nudity, language and some violence. Reviewed after a Sneak Preview on 2/21/04.)