Sun March 7, 2004
Starsky and Hutch
I found the ultimate stoner flick.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
I found the ultimate stoner flick, "Starsky and Hutch," a nonsensical satire of the'70's TV show that is so sweet I might even suggest my 11 year old friend, Mariah, see it for a glimpse into the loose, lush, and lurid world her parents experienced at her age.
The good will I have for the film comes not from the dialogue, which has no truly witty lines, nor from the plot, which has the detectives going after a major drug dealer in a setup all to familiar to anyone who has ever seen a police drama with a decidely goofy take. My warmth is rather for the inspired pairing of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the titular roles. The two actors have been together numerous times, with critical success in "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Zoolander." Here they seem so in sync with their own personas that they generously give each other multiple chances to dominate a scene while each enjoys the other's success. This film is nothing without their chemistry.
And another crazy critical notion: the car. Yes, the red Ford Gran Torino that leaps over tall walls in a single bound has character. Stiller treats it so reverentially that when he loses it, you feel his pain. When it reappears in the fond embrace of the original TV pair, Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, the world seems right.
A high point in the satire comes when Wilson sings David Soul's 1977 chart-topping hit, "Don't Give Up On Us Baby." It's as absurd as bell-bottoms, but Wilson sings it so badly you can focus on the absolute appropriateness of that song to the sentimental, turbulent, and loving 70s. Director Todd Phillip's ("Road Trip," "Old School") imitations of "Saturday Night Fever" and "Easy Rider" among other pop-cult markers of the age are done smartly and with just enough satire to keep the respect they deserve.
Snoop Dog's impressive role as police informant Huggy Bear is the right reminder of a contemporary rap world owing some of its energy to the irreverence of the 70s.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.