STARSKY & HUTCH Crime, and sometimes comedy, doesn’t pay.

Starsky & Hutch

dir. Phillips

Opens Fri March 5

Various Theaters

Hollywood makes a pretty penny off remakes of classic television; the only thing we ask is that the remake is marginally better than the original. The Brady Bunch Movie was clearly the most successful of the lot, lovingly lampooning not only the show itself, but the Brady subtext as well (i.e. Greg and Marcia's sexual awakening, and Jan's tenuous grip on reality). And if there's one cop show from the '70s that's jam-packed with subtext, it's Starsky & Hutch. The story of two plain-clothes detectives who broke the rules to catch the crook, S&H were different from other buddy cops, in that they couldn't keep their hands off each other.

Though attempts were made to re-enforce the duo's heterosexuality, in practically every episode the buddies were hugging, touching, rolling around together in the heat of action, and perhaps dressed only in towels and shoulder holsters (Very hot!). Amazingly, the movie version of Starsky & Hutch practically ignores this crucial part of their relationship, which significantly lessens the parody.

In this version, Starsky and Hutch (Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson) enlist the help of street informant Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) to bring down a murderous coke dealer (Vince Vaughn). It's important to note this Huggy Bear is no longer a common street hustler and has been upgraded to the status of gangland boss--once again, so much for parody.

The uneven state of this film comes unsurprisingly via the marginally talented directing/writing team of Road Trip and Old School (Todd Phillips and Scot Armstong). Like these low-rent comedies, Starsky & Hutch provides roughly 3.5 big laughs, with long stretches of wandering dialogue. Other than the car and costuming, there are only a handful of references to the original show, which leads me to wonder--did the screenwriters spend any time watching the original version?

There are plenty of missed opportunities in this movie, and while I've certainly seen less funny films recently (The Passion of the Christ pops to mind), I can't help but think Stiller and Wilson's talents have been largely wasted. Not a bad rental, but wouldn't it be more fun to heckle the original Starsky & Hutch on DVD?