Starsky and Hutch

By Mark Ramsey | 2004/03/06

It used to be that movies became TV shows, not vice versa, but that was before Hollywood transformed itself into a vertically integrated factory where fresh ideas are harder to find than Tara Reid at last call. Why attach a mediocre script to an original project when a remotely familiar one is within reach?

I’m glad Hollywood’s revisiting old crap shows from the 70′s because there’s a lot more I’m looking forward to: How about Jason Alexander and Nathan Lane in McMillan & Wife? Think Matthew McConaughey in McCloud. What about Colin Farrell as Baretta? That way he can keep his eye on the sparrow instead of all the little chickees.

My Passion for the Starsky and the Hutch is thinner than David Soul’s hair. And, as his cameo in this movie proves, that’s mighty thin. In fact, TV’s original Starsky and Hutch seem to have given up spinning their high performance car across a street for spinning their high performance forks across a plate. There they are, 70′s artifacts both, vintage Starsky and Collectible Hutch back in their famous red Ford Gran Torino.


Well, I don’t know what a “Gran” is but I know a Grandpa when I see one.

And so enter the new guys: Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller.

If car shows pop your buttons and relentless 360′s make you swoon, you’ll love Starsky and Hutch. If not, I suggest you settle for a 180 or at least a Colt 45.

Speaking of car shows, Carmen Electra, that concept car of womanhood, that V8 of auto show models, is here. Carmen is very selective about her acting roles – she’ll only take one if anyone asks. Some folks live to act, others act to live, Carmen acts as if she lives. Hey, Carmen looks worried – at least she would look worried if her forehead didn’t contain enough Botox to put down Ryan Seacrest.

Vince Vaughan is a gifted comic actor, but here his gifts are off the clearance rack. Vince has a scheme to alter the cell structure of cocaine making it 100% undetectable, much like whatever remains of his everlasting soul. “No coke smell,” says Vince, “same coke ride.” And no one can trace the goods back to him – except that Vince insists on packaging this cocaine in bags sealed with his corporate logo! Is this what they teach you in Drug Trafficking school?


Paired with Vince is Juliette Lewis, who is usually underrated, underutilized, or under the influence.

The biggest laugh in this movie is for the very large headset Ben Stiller wears as he’s running along the beach listening to tunes. You know you’re in trouble when the comedy comes from antiquated gadgetry. It’s like howling at the comic stylings of a typewriter.

Owen grabs a guitar to sing David Soul’s one-hit-wonder “Don’t Give Up On Us, Baby.” I was amazed when he told Katie Couric he didn’t lip-synch that number. Not only did he obviously lip-synch, but doing his voice was the woman who dubbed Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

This movie is plum full of 70′s nostalgia. It’s only a matter of time until the inevitable Discothon, where Ben can boast his studded, patchwork denim with leather trim. Are you supposed to wear this or line your bucket seats with it?

Ben and Owen have been plugging this movie on every TV show with an audience greater than 100 for the past couple weeks. There, they cling to each other like Liza to a lamppost. Even the Oscars featured their faux-spontaneous co-mugging. I don’t know about you, but when I can see someone pulling my strings I don’t feel like playing the marionette.

Starsky and Hutch is almost as painful as an episode of the old TV show but a lot more expensive to watch. Both Owen and Ben have been involved with and have written some of the best material in contemporary movie comedy, but this is mostly high concept and low effort.

Granted, the movie is not without bright moments. There’s a funny scene where our heroes get stabbed with knives thrown by a mischievous Chinese boy. And another funny one with cameo guest Will Ferrell as a con in a hairnet with a fetish that’s weird even by Hollywood standards.

But all that is punctuated with too many relics of bad TV past: Cars chase over hillsides, lousy theme music blares, puffy perms, wide collars, and clashing plaids do the electric slide across the screen as far as the eye can see. Starsky and Hutch is a little too true to the mediocre source material, if you ask me.

I’ll hold out for Anthony Hopkins as Barnaby Jones.

Photos Copyright ©2004 Warner Brothers / Dimension Films


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