The film is effectively a “re-imagining” of the highly popular staple Saturday night 70’s police series. In retrospect, it is obvious how much more innocent the television audience would have been at the time.
It was obviously decided early in the films development, that a 2004 audience would never buy into the series played straight. What we have are completely new characters with the same names and mode of transport, but played for laughs with unsubtle “digs” at everything 70’s. Chopper bikes, afro’s, disco and lapels the size of Belgium. The period setting is well done and I particularly liked the enormous microwave in Starsky’s kitchen, during the partner’s impromptu Fondue evening with two cheer leaders.
Owen Wilson plays Hutch as the sort of cop who would push a floating corpse back into the harbour in the hope that the current would move it to another jurisdiction. When this fails, he steals the corpse’s loose bank notes and considers this part of a cops benefit package. At the other extreme, Ben Stiller plays Starsky, as the cop who would arrest his own mother if she double parked whilst visiting a sick relative.
The pair get thrown together as a partners by the hard bitten captain (Fred Williamson) for his own entertainment and they set about chasing Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughan), the local drug dealer and his girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) who are pulling together a large Cocaine shipment.
Helping the hapless pair is Huggy Bear (Snoop Dog) the local snitch playing it so cool Daddio. Dressed to 70’s extreme he cuts a fine willow thin cool dude who would take three hours to get through an airport metal detector with the amount of “Bling” on show. “I lay it and you play it” is his advice which of course means nothing at all but here is a guy with a 76 Cadillac in 1975 because he “knows people, who know people, who know people who steal stuff”.
The story is largely irrelevant and whether you enjoy the film will depend largely on perhaps how old you are. Audiences under thirty five, will probably think this is just like “Dumb and Dumber – Undercover”, love every pratfall and pick up every telegraphed hint at the relationship subtext between the two cops.
Those over thirty five who look back affectionately at the series might be horrified at the caricatures that have been created. Our real heroes appear in cameos to pass the baton to the “New Generation”, somehow you wish they hadn’t been involved and were quoted in the press as being mortified at the whole idea.
Out of interest, the scene with the knife wielding youngster seems to have come from a different movie and seems at odds with the tone of the rest of the film. Quite why it was necessary for both characters to be impaled repeatedly with household cutlery can only be the directors’ decision.
There are plenty of laughs to be had. I liked the scene where the escalating first meeting with Huggy is diffused and everyone is cool. In a modern thriller there would have been a bloodbath with more slow mo’ ejecting shells than a pistachio opening contest. Vince Vaughan plays the baddy as “evil lite”, a pale reflection of how “bad” he might have acted in a more recent movie. Early in the movie he shoots an underling on his yacht, almost as a warm up to the idea of dismembering corpses in barrels a la’ “Bad boys II” when Directors got those pesky censors out of the way a few decades later.
Undoubted “Dumb and Dumber” style fun for the under thirty fives and “oldies” with short memories. Those of us with fond memories and rose tinted glasses should look away quickly. Owen Wilson continues to act as if he cannot believe he is a star with women falling over him. Quite why this is fun to watch is perplexing but somehow, for now, it continues to be so. Highly likely to become a franchise, so lets hope there are plenty of spare Ford Gran Torinos out there for them to destroy.