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Thursday, March 4, 2004 03:26 pm

Movie review

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Starsky & Hutch

Starsky & Hutch parody isn't quite the joyride it could have been

Zebra Three is back, burning rubber and breaking rules just like in the old days in Starsky & Hutch, an amusing parody of the '70s cop show. Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul literally pass the car keys to Starsky's souped-up red-and-white Gran Torino to real-life pals Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in a film that's never quite as clever or funny as it should be, but works often enough to recommend as a 100-minute time-waster.

Two undercover detectives, by-the-book David Starsky (Stiller) and roguish ladies' man Ken Hutchinson (Wilson), catch a case involving a dead drug dealer floating in the bay. Among his possessions is a business card belonging to wealthy druglord Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), who has developed a new strain of cocaine that cannot be detected by police dogs. The screenwriters, including director Todd Phillips, mostly ignore this clever plot element in favor of silly slapstick. Before the ubiquitous Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) provides them with vital information that leads to Feldman, the detectives follow clues to a lascivious inmate (an unbilled cameo by Will Farrell), some slinky cheerleaders (played by Carmen Electra, Amy Smart and Brande Roderick), and a barful of brawling bikers.

Despite the presence of '70s icon Fred "The Hammer" Williamson as Starsky and Hutch's ever-irascible boss, Phillips' film doesn't take enough advantage of its period or plot. Still, many of the jokes are droll enough to inspire plenty of chuckles. And Stiller and Wilson have worked together on six films and a TV pilot, so their breezy chemistry as opposites-attract cops is no big surprise.

Of course, it wouldn't be Starsky & Hutch without the "Striped Tomato." Gearheads will be delighted to know that Starsky's Torino can still spin out as excitingly as ever. If Phillips could only have adjusted his story as tightly as the Torino can take turns, he might have made a classic, instead of a fitfully fun joyride.

What other critics are saying. . .

Along Came Polly [PG-13] Ben Stiller plays a man who's afraid of risk. But he makes his living analyzing risk, gets involved in a risky romance, and cheats on his wife."A movie that sets its comedy bar too low for the talents involved." (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) White Oaks

Barbershop 2: Back in Business [PG-13] Spend another day with the crew at Calvin's [Ice Cube] barbershop on Chicago's South Side. "Cube is still adorable, but the potentially poppin' battle between the shop and big-box competitor Nappy Cuts gets obscured by sloppy chronology and flat, cartoonish politicos." (Laura Sinagra, Village Voice) White Oaks

Broken Lizard's Club Dread [R] A serial killer interrupts the fun at Club Dread, an island paradise for swingers. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The Butterfly Effect [R] Evan (Ashton Kutcher), mourning the death of his girlfriend, finds he can go back in time and change the future. But every change he makes goes wrong. "Dreary and overfamiliar." (Dennis Lim, Village Voice) ShowPlace West

Calendar Girls [PG-13] The women of the Rylstone Women's Institute in North Yorkshire drop everything for a good cause. Stars Helen Mirren and Julie Waters. "A grown-up comedy that is warm, winning and sexy." (Ray Bennett, Hollywood Reporter) Parkway Pointe

Cheaper by the Dozen [PG] The Baker family moves from a small Illinois town to the big city after dad gets his coaching dream job. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt star in this remake. "Martin and Hunt, reliable pros though they are, don't stand a chance against the force arrayed against them: the bald cliches, unspeakable dialogue, and cheap sentimentality of the script . . ." (Jim Lane, Sacramento News & Review) White Oaks

Cold Mountain [R] A wounded Confederate (Jude Law) embarks on a perilous journey back home to Cold Mountain, N.C., to reunite with his sweetheart (Nicole Kidman). Based on the novel by Charles Frazier. "Cold Mountain reiterates a universal truth, and a message of hope." (Chuck Koplinski, Illinois Times.) Parkway Pointe

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen [PG] Lola's family moves from New York City to the burbs in New Jersey. Lola sets her sights on winning the lead in a school play while fantasizing about her favorite rock group. When she gets word the group's disbanding, she pulls out all the stops to make their farewell concert. Parkway Pointe

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights [PG-13] An American girl and her parents show up in Cuba just before the Revolution. She meets a local Cuban guy who recognizes her dancing ability. The dilemma: Will she stay or will she go? ShowPlace West

Eurotrip [R] Scotty's German online pen pal suggests they meet. When he discovers she's gorgeous, he and three friends head out after graduation to meet her. Their European trip is fraught with comical misadventures. Not reviewed. ShowPlace West

50 First Dates [PG-13] Veterinarian Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) enjoys dating women on vacation, but leaves his playboy life after he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore). Alas, Lucy suffers from short-term memory loss, forcing Henry to woo her every day. ShowPlace East, ShowPlace West

Hidalgo [PG-13] The story of a Pony Express courier (Viggo Mortensen) who travels to Saudi Arabia to compete with his horse, Hidalgo, in a dangerous race for a massive contest prize. "Nothing kills my Viggo jones like a bad western set in the Arabian Desert." (Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly) ShowPlace East, ShowPlace West

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [PG-13] Final part of trilogy, as hobbits Frodo and Sam journey to Mount Doom in Mordor. "As a model for how to bring substance, authenticity and insight to the biggest of adventure yarns, this trilogy will not soon, if ever, find its equal." (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times) ShowPlace East, ShowPlace West

Miracle [PG] The story of the U.S. hockey team that beat the favored Soviet team in the 1980 Winter Olympics, then went on to win the gold. "An effective exercise in flag-waving nostalgia." (Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The Passion of the Christ [R] Mel Gibson's version of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. "The sacrifice Gibson's Jesus makes is purely physical. The violence to which he is subjected is portrayed to the point of being gratuitous and manipulative." (Chuck Koplinski, Illinois Times) ShowPlace East, Parkway Pointe

Twisted [R] Jessica (Ashley Judd) portrays a police detective who finds herself at the center of an investigation after all her past lovers start dying off. To add to the drama, Jessica's dad was a serial killer. "Characters get distorted and motivations warped in this police thriller in order to keep bodies piling up and clues pointing in all directions." (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East 

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