These days, Ben Stiller seems to be everywhere. Trying to avoid seeing a Stiller flick at the cineplex is like trying to avoid seeing a hooch at Club 634 – it’s an impossible task. After starring in a string of duds in recent months – like “Duplex” and “Along Came Polly” – Stiller has finally hit the mark with the comedy “Starsky and Hutch,” based on the 1970s hit TV drama. Starsky and Hutch re-teams Stiller with Owen Wilson, his co-star from “Zoolander,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Meet the Parents” and “The Cable Guy.” With Stiller playing Dave “by-the-book” Starsky and Wilson as Ken “bend-the-rules” Hutchinson, Stiller and Wilson strike buddy-cop gold in a film that feels like a feature-length version of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” video.
At the start of “Starsky and Hutch,” a subtitle notes that the film takes place in the 1970s and director Todd Phillips (“Road Trip,” “Old School”) does a superb job of keeping this period piece old school. “Starsky and Hutch” is an orgy of cheesy dialogue, tight pants, leather jackets, bad perms, cocaine and sleek Ford Turinos. Stiller introduces his character in a hard-boiled voice-over saying, “That guy in the tight jeans and leather jacket? That’s me. I’m David Starsky.” Keeping the movie in its original ’70s setting unearths a mother lode of hilarious moments; this was a smart move by Phillips, because TV-to-movie adaptations, notably “Charlie’s Angels” and “Dragnet,” usually fall flat when updated to modern times.
Although Stiller and Wilson both deliver one of the funniest performances of their respective careers, it is the supporting cast of “Starsky and Hutch” that really make this movie groove. Snoop Dogg plays Starsky and Hutch’s pimped-out snitch/sidekick Huggy Bear. Snoop is perfectly cast as the untouchable ghetto informant and gives his most memorable performance to date (my apologies to fans of “Bones” and “The Wash”) and his funniest performance since his “Gin and Juice” video.
“Starsky and Hutch” also re-teams Phillips with his “Old School” stars Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Vaughn plays the mustachioed archvillain and drug kingpin Reese Feldman, and Ferrell plays an incarcerated gay biker named Big Earl. Vaughn and Ferrell both steal every scene they’re in, and Ferrell provides the movie’s funniest scene when he describes Hutch’s bellybutton as “a bowl of oatmeal with a hole in it,” and says he’ll snitch on Feldman if Hutch “acts like a dragon.” Fans of “Old School” will also be pleased to see an appearance by the band from Frank the Tank’s wedding.
“Starsky and Hutch” is chock-full of over-the-top comedy, but its plot, like the plots on the TV series, is fairly disposable. At the start of the movie, Starsky and Hutch find a dead body floating in a bay. Hutch suggests that they push it back out and let another police precinct deal with it, but Starsky initiates an investigation. Soon, they are hot on the trail of Feldman, who has developed an odorless cocaine that can go undetected by drug-sniffing dogs. On the investigation, Starsky and Hutch frequently find themselves in hot water and are constantly being yelled at by their captain for their screw-ups. The plot isn’t worthy of a feature film; rather, it is suitable for a cheesy 1970s TV show, which I guess is the point.
With “Starsky and Hutch,” Phillips allows his actors to play to their strengths. Stiller is tightly-wound and angry, Wilson is easy-going and laid-back, Vaughn is fast-talking and smarmy, and Snoop Dogg is, well, a pimp. The result is one of the funniest movies to come along in a while. So if you’re looking for a pure-entertainment, no-thinking-required movie, put on your hot pants, Aqua Net your perm and check out “Starsky and Hutch”.