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Starsky & Hutch

Year: 2004
Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Vince Vaughan, Jason Bateman, Amy Smart, Carmen Electra, Chris Penn
As I write this review, critics across the country are saying this film is funny, fresh and true to the spirit of the TV show. It's also pretty much lighting the box office on fire.

The only way I can account for both these phenomena is; in the first instance, critics are usually from Generation X and have fond memories of the show, and also (usually) love the regular pairing of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in a comedy. It's success at the box office I can only attribute to being a combination of branding and the fact that (in the pre-US blockbuster season) there was nothing else on.

Because it's neither particularly funny, particularly action packed or in any way memorable. Jokes are hobbled before they arrive, the action isn't distinct enough from the comedy and you don't know what you're supposed to be laughing at, and the characterizations are wishy washy.

In fact, it feels like the whole thing was rushed through production simply to hit theatres before the likes of Van Helsing and Spider Man 2 drown everything else out.

Starsky's (Stiller) character is full of paradoxes, edgy but square, straight but hard-nosed, neurotic but violent, and none of them sit comfortably. You never know if you're supposed to be laughing at him or in awe of him.

As Hutch, Wilson steps back into his much relied-upon surfer dude persona and lets that adapt itself to Hutch's laid back, part boy, bend-the-law-if-necessary character.

After screwing up too many cases, Starsky and Hutch are partnered together and put on the case of intercepting a huge cocaine shipment being bought in by Vince Vaughan, a drug runner fronting as a legitimate and respected businessman. The fact that he's as major a character as the leads proves how little Wilson and Stiller have to work with.

The whole thing is laid over a B movie templated plot and there are some laughs, but the whole movie is a low quality effort to simply move from one (occasionally mediocre) laugh to another.

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