(PG-13) 3 stars
Oh. Another Ben Stiller comedy. Let’s see, since summer we’ve had Duplex, and Along Came Polly, and later this year we’ll get his Meet the Parents sequel, Meet the Fockers. Is Stiller creeping dangerously close to overexposure? Perhaps someone should explain to him that just because someone shoves a contract at you, you aren’t required to sign. That said, I’m glad he signed this one. The latest from Todd Phillips, director of Old School, turns the ’70s buddy cop TV action series into a likable comedy. As with Old School, the film is uneven and too laid back at times, but there are lots of great gags and the general air of the production is affable and welcoming.
The ABC series, which originally aired between 1975-1979, blended action, attempted funkiness and lots of banter between two studly cops. If I remember correctly, oft times one of the guys would get knocked out or injured, only to be carried away in the arms of the other. Aaah, the homoerotic good ole days.
Paul Michael Glaser was Detective David Starsky, and Stiller takes Glaser’s highly physical, over-caffeinated take on the role and ups the ante while jumping at every opportunity to go undercover (Disguises! Funny voices! Yes!). Wilson, on the other hand, ignores David Soul’s steamy approach to Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson and does his usual nasally surfer-dude thing. Thank goodness, he’s so good at it. Stiller and Wilson offer up a little spin on The Odd Couple as well, with Stiller as a by-the-book Felix type and Wilson as a rules-be-damned Oscar. They work very well together.
Overall, this is an exceptionally well-cast movie. Snoop Dogg replaces Antonio Fargas as bar owner/informant Huggy Bear and steals scenes with his smart, sly, assured presence. Vince Vaughn tinkers with his standard screen persona and finds just the right notes as a crimelord about to hit the city with a new form of cocaine that’s undetectable by taste or smell. As his partner, Jason Bateman is fine. Seventies icon Fred Williamson plays the raging police captain, Juliette Lewis is Vaughn’s naïve honey-bunny and Amy Smart and Carmen Electra are cheerleaders hot for men in uniform.
Keep your eyes peeled for a raucous uncredited cameo appearance from a comic actor whose Christmas-themed film was one of the best surprises of the last holiday season. And, of course, Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul tool in for a brief cameo. Glaser, weathered far less than most people, remains handsome and healthy, but Soul looks like an E! True Hollywood Story with legs. And yes, the red Ford Gran Torino with the white stripe is back, because what else would two happenin’ officers like Starsky and Hutch drive?