Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dog, Vince Vaughn
Undercover cops David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson go after a drug lord.
I have vague recollections of the original television series, but it’s clear that the movie Starsky & Hutch has little resemblance to the original series. Starsky & Hutch, the movie, emphasizes humor, whereas the television series was more action-oriented. We’re left with a comedy that barely qualifies as an “Action Movie”. Overall, this movie has some entertaining moments, but in many ways falls short.
Rather than find actors to fit the original characters of Starsky and Hutch, the producers built characters around the acting of straight man Ben Stiller (Starsky) and easy-going Owen Wilson (Hutch). A large part of the entertainment comes from the interaction between the two actors, as they bicker and bumble along in their pursuit of drug lord Reese Feldman. This is both good and bad. The good part is that their interaction can at times be quite entertaining, and some scenes in the movie brought some good chuckles.
The bad part is that I felt like I’ve seen these characters in other movies. Even though I’ve only seen a couple of Stiller’s movies, his facial expressions get predictable. He has a tendency to overact. Even within this movie alone, his acting starts to get tiring. I find Owen Wilson much more enjoyable to watch, but his character as well seems almost identical to roles he’s played in other movies. If you’re a fan of these actors, you’ll likely find this enjoyable. If you’re looking for something different, you’ll likely be disappointed.
The pace in the movie suffers because of this emphasis on character interaction. The movie starts out fine, and I was surprised at the halfway point how much I was enjoying things. But things start to get repetitive, and there isn’t enough story, humor, or action to keep the back half of the movie interesting. In so many areas, the movie just needed to be better. The script needed to be better. Ben Stiller needed to be better. Starsky & Hutch just never achieved liftoff for me.
With regards to acting, the end result is decidedly average. No one is horrible. Stiller, with all his mentioned faults, can still deliver some great lines. Wilson adds some value here. I especially liked Snoop Dog as Starsky & Hutch’s helpful informant Huggy Bear. He comes across ultracool, and this fits the role perfectly. Kudos here. As a villain, Vince Vaughn does a respectable job, but his character is so stereotypical that there isn’t much room to work with.
If you’re going to make a mediocre action-comedy, you should at least spice it up with some decent action to distract us, but Starsky & Hutch disappoints in this regard as well. There simply isn’t a lot of action. We’ve got no special effects, some minor stunts, and one big explosion. There are a few car chases, which were the hallmark of the television series, but the chases in the movie are tame by today’s standards. Having said that, there is one car scene at the end that is both original and funny.
Pumping up the eye candy would have also been a good way to improve this movie, and in some ways they get this right. Carmen Electra and Amy Smart play two cheerleaders who take an interest in Starsky & Hutch. Electra has still got the stuff and Smart is surprisingly attractive. However, the movie tones down the sensuality for the sake of its PG-13 rating, and both Electra and Smart play minor roles. From the male side of things, Stiller doesn’t help the hunk rating, but Wilson adds some points.
All in all, we’re left with a movie that starts out well, but devolves into a movie that stutters along, alternating genuinely funny moments with forgettable mediocrity. Almost as soon as the acting, story, and humor lift the film up, these same elements drop in quality and weigh the film down again. Even the conclusion does this: we have one original and funny car stunt followed by a blindingly stupid Deus ex machina event that ends the film. Overall, I suppose it’s entertaining enough, but for me its positives didn’t quite overcome the negatives. If a short, light film is what you are looking for, this may work. Otherwise, skip it.
The original Starsky and Hutch from the TV series make a cameo appearance at the end of the film.
Related Reviews: Night at the Museum
Consistent Premise: 72
Body Count: 3
Time to First Dead Body: 2 minutes
Special Effects: 3
Overall: 47 (Loses Speed, Gets Tiring)