Case closed, already!

Owen Wilson (left) and Ben Stiller co-star in the Starsky and Hutch remake (courtesy photo)
Another unfunny flick spoofs the '70s

This will probably be too obvious to utter aloud for anyone outside the decision making machine in Hollywood, but: Can we stop with the self-conscious '70s spoofs already? If Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson can't make them funny at this point, does it really seem likely that anyone else can? But as these words are typed, even before Starsky & Hutch has laid rubber into a theater near you, director Todd Phillips is already implicated in a remake of The Six Million Dollar Man starring Jim Carrey.

Stiller and Owen should have killed in this movie. Anyone who has seen the old Ben Stiller Show knows that one of the comedian's strengths is his knack for honing in on what makes pop icons ridiculous; in almost every episode, he plucked a star from one context and plopped him into another, usually to hilarious effect. If Stiller would write more movies and act for hire in fewer of them (to date, his only feature writing credit is the underrated Zoolander), maybe this talent would be better recognized. Then again, the paycheck for a popular clunker like Along Came Polly is probably more attractive than the esteem of a few picky comedy fans.

It isn't that Starsky & Hutch is a travesty, or even that it contains no jokes worth laughing at. The movie just feels lifeless. It seems to expect to earn some giggles just by reminding viewers of how goofy everything looked in the '70s. Trouble is, a) this is hardly a new observation, and b) in real life, the sensibilities of that ugly era have once again become so commonplace that fashion moguls have had to move on to the '80s for their Shock of the Old.

Starsky and Hutch

Dir. Todd Phillips; writ. John O'Brien, Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong; feat. Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Snoop Dogg, Juliette Lewis (PG-13)
The highlights here are so minor compared to what they might have been that they hardly seem worth pointing out. Will Ferrell (saving grace of Phillips' previous film, Old School) has a typically left-field minor part here, as a convict with a thing for belly buttons and dragons. Snoop Dogg plays himsel - um, plays Huggy Bear to the Blaxploitation hilt. And Vince Vaughn seems born to the sleazy villain role, even if he has little to do that's interesting. Other intended high points - like a blatant rip-off of Zoolander's "walk-off" sequence - vanish from the memory almost before they're finished.

Starsky & Hutch is definitely not as big a letdown as the second Charlie's Angels, but it says something that TV fare like That '70s Show is more entertaining. It's not too late to pull the plug on The Six Million Dollar Man, is it? •

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