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Starsky & Hutch Review

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Overly dedicated Detective David Starsky (Stiller) is forced to work with overly laid-back Ken ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson (Wilson), whose only angle is his connection to street-savvy informant Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg). A lead on a new type of undetectable cocaine

★★★★

Starsky & Hutch the movie is, of course, a very bad idea. The TV show ran from 1975 to 1979, which would put any remaining fans in their late thirties, not exactly a marketing man’s ideal movie audience. And, unlike some later variants on the buddy-buddy cop genre, Starsky & Hutch does not live on in syndication — it has dated too badly. But it is precisely this unflattering passage of time that makes Starsky & Hutch a perfect property for the kind of comedy retrofit that worked wonders for that other unlamented bunch, the Bradys.

Apart from a deadly accurate spoof of the opening titles, some spot-on casting and the obligatory car chase, Starsky & Hutch the movie does not do a rich trade in its TV progenitor.

The satire, such as it is, has a bigger target in mind: the 1970s. Unlike the show itself, the ’70s do live on in syndication, an easy and obliging victim for good-natured ribbing. For those who lived through it, 1970s America was probably dominated by Watergate and Vietnam; but for those of us who experienced the decade second-hand, it looks like one long roller-disco of bad fashion and cheesy tunes. And Starsky & Hutch never knowingly passes up a cheap shot. From clunky technology to chunky knitwear, all the signature naffness of the decade is lovingly lampooned.

Director Todd Phillips does dig a little deeper in exploiting the gay undertones of practically all cop duos — the titular pair follow a classic love story arc, falling for each other, then falling out before making up again. And he strikes a particularly rich vein with the comic exposition of an interesting and rather arresting phenomenon: everything that was considered macho then is utterly camp now.

Old School director Phillips is admirably old school in his approach; in places the movie looks not unlike a failed pilot for the original series, and the endearingly ramshackle production extends to a plot held together with spit and goodwill. But nobody cares if cut-to-the-gag editing strips action and logic to the bone, just so long as the jokes are worth waiting for. And even if Starsky & Hutch is more consistently amusing than laugh-out-loud hilarious, the hit rate is always high.

Phillips’ Old School alumni Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell pitch up with a coupla oddballs and, as Huggy Bear, Snoop Dogg proves more than a one-line casting joke. But even when the Gran Torino screeches across screen, there’s never any doubt that this is Wilson and Stiller’s movie.

On their sixth outing together, the real-life friends finally get an equal share of the spotlight, and the result is the best buddy pairing in recent memory. In stark contrast to the look-at-me antics of many above-the-line comedians, Wilson and Stiller are as generous as they are evenly matched. Stiller is apparently still on a one-man quest to redefine the limits of shame, while every line drawled out the corner of Wilson’s odd-shaped mouth qualifies as a genuine comic aside.

Despite the fact that neither Stiller nor Wilson receives a writing credit, the movie cleaves closer in spirit to the supremely silly Zoolander than anything else.

Goofy and easygoing, Starsky & Hutch is not exactly politically correct, but you’d be hard pushed to find a single mean frame. This is the kind of movie where cocaine is easily confused with Canderel. The kind of movie where the villain just wants to buy a pony for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. The kind of movie where sexual threesomes are organised by Owen Wilson and not John Leslie. In other words: sweet.

Warm and fuzzy rather than cool and edgy, Starsky & Hutch is a perfect vehicle for the likeable Stiller and Wilson. It may not be big or clever but neither are we, which might explain why we laughed so much.

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