Tuesday, September 21, 2004


As I mentioned earlier, I managed to squeak in 3 movies this weekend in between all the normal domestic stuff like buying a new toilet, and helping my middle son carve/paint the car for the pinewood derby (no, seriously). The first movie, which I saw on Saturday afternoon, was certainly the slightest – the Owen Wilson/Ben Stiller Starsky and Hutch. The movie was mildly amusing (I have no idea why I found the Will Farrell part – “TWO dragons” – as funny as I did, and shooting the pony was fried comedy gold...well, bronze at least), but it irritated me too much to really say that I enjoyed it. The movie was, on some level, a spoof, but really belongs to the same genre of comedy devoid of sincerity as Zoolander, the Brady Bunch movie, and (I presume – I haven’t seen it) Anchorman. The Abrams and Zucker style spoofs (like Airplane! And Hot Shots) also lacked sincerity, but this was in the service of merciless deconstruction (pushing genre conventions as far as possible, and recording the results). This new crop of movies basically examines only its own ironic detachment to the material. Stiller and Wilson (and Phillips) are playing at making a cops and robbers movie not to poke fun at cops and robbers movies, but to point out how above making a cops and robbers movie they are.

This begs the question – why make this movie at all? The obvious answer is that the movie had to be made because Snoop Dogg was destined to play Huggy bear, and like some Robert Jordan “taveran,” he warps space/time around himself until the destiny is fulfilled (the same way the X-Men movie had to be made so Patrick Stewart could play Professor X). I’m only slightly joking here, as I think the movie serves of the attitude of the producers, writers, director, and actors, and not the other way around.

There is no attempt to peruse the “spoof” angle with any diligence. The cop spoof ground has been covered before (notably the underrated “Loaded Weapon 1”), and 70’s spoof has been done to death. Even as specific an avenue as pimp culture has been well canvassed (“I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka” among other efforts). Still, nothing new is attempted or added. Snoop is basically a plot device that wears outrageous clothes and drives a Lincoln (Oooh, burn!). Stiller and Wilson aren’t really trying to play Starsky and Hutch, with Wilson stuck in Roy O’Bannon (or “Hansel” or Kevin the Christian, etc) mode, and Stiller doing a non-specific over-the-top tense guy. Only Vince Vaughn does anything to play with his archetype (by making his drug dealer villain humorously self-involved in a “here come the 80’s” way) so that he looks like he’s at least trying for something.

Part of the problem is the cringe-worthy realization that Stiller and Wilson are the closest thing we have right now to a working comedy team (since the death of Chris Farley, and resulting stranding of David Spade – not a great apex from which to fall in the first place). The basic shtick – Stiller is kind of uptight, but finds himself casually and mostly unintentionally (or is it really unintentional?!?) outdone by the laid back Wilson, agitating him all the more - was well worked out from their first outing (“Meet the Parents” I mean – did they work together in the “Cable Guy”? – I don’t remember). It’s not that they aren’t funny together (I thought the “Greg’s Jewish, Kevin,” “Alright, so was J.C. – you’re in good company” sequence was the funniest part of “Meet the Parents”) just that the shtick’s too thin to support a body of work together.

All in all, I’d rather have seen “Napoleon Dynamite” again – a movie also steeped in irony, but which ultimately is a human story. Starsky and Hutch is not about human beings, but about cool detachment. All of this would be excusable, though, if it were just a little funnier.


At 3:17 PM, Blogger Mildly Dangerous said...

I agree. Napoleon Dynamite was a better movie.



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