If you were a male who grew up in the late 1970s, you probably wanted to drive either a red Grand Torino or an orange Dodge Charger. Hollywood has yet to make a movie version of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” so those who want to see the General Lee in action will have to wait. But those who want to see the red Grand Torino can watch it tearing up the streets of Bay City in “Starsky & Hutch.”
Based on the ’70s television series of the same name, the movie gives us Ben Stiller as David Starsky and Owen Wilson as Ken Hutchinson. Both are detectives on the Bay City police force, working the beat trying to keep the public safe. Their aim: protect and serve.
The movie is not an update on the series, but a throwback to it. We see Starsky as a straight-laced cop trying to follow in his mother’s footsteps. His mother’s ghost seems to haunt his every bumbling move. She was Bay City’s greatest police officer and that point is made to Starsky with every mistake he makes.
Hutch, on the other hand, is a cop who seems to be on the force to get all he can. He’s a shady operator who is always on the wrong side. He’s not worried about breaking the law as much as bending it. These two are partnered to keep the other in check.
The story, such as it is, revolves around a new type of cocaine hitting the streets through the power of Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), a dealer with a vicious mean streak. Starsky and Hutch know he’s bad news but have to prove it.
You cannot have Starsky and Hutch without Huggy Bear. Snoop Dogg plays the pimp/informant to perfection. He is as good as Antonio Vargas was in the series. Snoop Dogg walks around in clothes that look like they came from Superfly’s closet. He drives a big Lincoln and carries a wicked cane. By far, Snoop Dogg is the best thing about the movie.
“Starsky & Hutch”—the movie—is too much like the television show, though. It has a story, but the story is secondary to the interplay between the central characters and works only to give us the friction created by the two guys in the cool car.
Juliette Lewis plays mistress to Reese Feldman and is in several scenes, but there is no development of her character. She just appears in those places where Feldman is not at home with his wife and children. She’s just an accessory to the story and something to hang on Feldman’s arm.
Also, the interplay between Stiller and Wilson seems to miss an important element. Some critics have compared them to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, with Stiller being manic like Hope and Wilson playing it cool like Crosby. But there was an empathy you had for Hope and a sense of wonder at the grand presence of Crosby that these two actors lack. As the movie progressed, Stiller and Wilson’s act wore thin.
“Starsky & Hutch” has a lot of baggage to carry, most if it nostalgic, with Starsky and Hutch driving like maniacs through Bay City’s wet streets. But in the end, maybe it would have been better left unmade.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, sexual situations, partial nudity, language and some violence. Reviewer’s note: This movie has very little adult language, but it does have deep sexual overtones, some of them gay and lesbian. It pushes the PG-13 rating.
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: John O’Brien and Scot Armstrong & Todd Phillips
Cast: David Starsky: Ben Stiller; Ken Hutchinson: Owen Wilson; Reese Feldman: Vince Vaughn; Kitty: Juliette Lewis; Huggy Bear: Snoop Dogg; Capt. Dobey: Fred Williamson.
The movie’s Web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.