After delivering such great comedies as “Road Trip” and “Old School”, Director Todd Phillips takes a step down with “Starsky & Hutch”, a film which doesn’t work as a satirical take on the classic 70’s cop show but make things too quirky for fans of the original dramatic tone. It’s a comedy that’s light on the laughs and relies too much on the charisma of its leads – proven comedic talents admittedly but the schtick is beginning to feel like it’s running dry.
Had the script actually had a direction it would’ve helped. Instead what’s happened feels like one of the abandoned scripts of the old series has been taken and used for the plot and supporting characters whilst the two leads polished their parts to more suit their personalities. As a result you essentially have a dated police small screen drama plaid totally seriously (incl. an all too straight-laced Vince Vaughn) whilst the odd gag sequence is awkwardly inserted in (if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen it all).
Stiller and Wilson are ok, the latter especially playing to his strengths but they’re both just being themselves rather than particular characters. The aforementioned Vaughn is completely straight laced as a villain, Jason Bateman and Juliette Lewis handle sidekick roles nicely, Fred Williamson does an admirable job as the exasperated police chief, and both Amy Smart and Carmen Electra do fine as the love interests. It’s Snoop Dogg though that easily steals the show with his few laughs but like the film itself, it relies on tiresome humour mostly revolving around the 70’s clothes/outfits.
Other sequences just feel tacked on – most notably a bit involving cocaine and a disco – it’s funny no doubt, but how in the hell does this relate to the rest of the movie one bit? By the time the cameos come around at the end by the real title characters it feels all too trite. Production/costume design is superb and nicely time-specific and above the material. Had it been plaid straight it’s been totally miscast, had it been plaid as a comedy it should’ve been so much more. As such it succeeds as neither.