March 26, 2004 -- “Starsky and Hutch,” loosely based on the old TV show of the same name, is an amiable comedy, boosted by some good jokes, solid performances and plenty of charm. You'll notice I'm not using an ampersand in the film's title. I don't use ampersands when they are unnecessary.
Ben Stiller of “Along Came Polly”) stars as up-tight detective David Starsky, and Owen Wilson of “The Big Bounce” stars as laid-back detective Ken Hutchinson. The detective duo is hot on the trail of cocaine dealer Reese Feldman (played by Vince Vaughn). The movie is like an “Old School” reunion since the director, Todd Phillips, Will Ferrell (who plays kinky drug dealer Big Earl), Juliette Lewis (who plays drug mol Kitty) and Vaughn were all a part of that earlier comedy. The plot is silly and unbelievable, as you might expect from these “Old School” alumni, but the film is so good-natured and easy going I could not dislike it. The cast is excellent, including Snoop Dogg of “Malibu's Most Wanted”) as the loveable hood and snitch, Huggy Bear. This is Snoop Dogg's best work since “Baby Boy.” It was also good to see that 70's blaxploitation icon, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (“From Dusk 'til Dawn”), who brought an edge to his clichéd role as the short-tempered police captain Doby.
Much of the film's charm is due to the relationship between Starsky and Hutch. They work well together, even in scenes that ought to be awkward because of the inconsistent way the two characters are written. Stiller and Wilson do know how to work a comic scene about as well as anyone. The rest of the cast is equally solid. The script is good enough for a lot of smiles, if not a lot of big laughs. The story is both pleasant and amusing, and unlike many comedies of this ilk, most of the humor is not in bad taste. Also unlike many comedies, this movie makes good use of running gags, which tend to get funnier as the film goes along. One running gag has to do with Starsky's mother, who was a legendary cop. Another has to do with Starsky's car, a Gran Torino. The car invariably gets more respect than Starsky. The two running gags are combined when Starsky reveals his mother believed the car was too much for him to handle.
The film also has some pretty nifty stunts, including several flying car scenes with Starsky's beautiful vintage red and white Gran Torino. This car takes quite a beating in the film. You can see the frame bend when it hits the pavement in the last flying car scene. There are some funny outtakes at the end of the film. In one of them, Stiller is seen wrecking the Gran Torino by crashing it into a police car. There are lots of very dangerous driving stunts in the film as the car seems to be continuously burning rubber. A total of nine Torinos were used in the movie. Two were for close-ups and two were stunt cars. The rest were for special scenes, such as towing rigs. The 1976 limited edition red and white Starsky and Hutch Gran Torinos (1,000 of these were made by Ford) were customized, using some original parts, to look like the original cars used in the TV show. Both Windsor and Cleveland 351 engines were used. For more on the customized cars used in the film, read the production notes on the film's official web page, or at movieweb.com. The original Starsky and Hutch, (Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul) both appear in the film, but they look awkward and out of place in that scene. This film rates a B.
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