2 Stars: Shallow
This spoof of the 1970’s TV show of the same name follows the antics of two police detective partners, Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (Owen Wilson), and Dave Starsky (Ben Stiller), who always race to the scene of the crime in their souped-up 1974 Ford Torino. Ever-present in this series is the interaction of their police boss, Captain Dobey (Fred Williamson), and their street informer, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg).
Dave Starsky is the uptight self-righteous cop that overplays every situation in order to protect society from evil. In real life, he would be bounced from any force for emotional immaturity, or he would die of a stress-related heart attack. He compensates for his own inadequacies by driving around in a hot rod car that – for comedy purposes – has to leave the ground every time he goes over the top of a hill, unrealistic in today’s urban traffic.
“Hutch” Hutchinson is the inside hustler. He is always “cool” and in love with the ladies. When he isn’t getting a kickback from some side crime, he is working over his boss to do as little work as possible.
There isn’t much of a plot to give away here. Starsky and Hutch have a typical “love-hate” relationship upon which the story is built. One is self-righteous and the other is unrighteous, and both are lacking in redeeming values. Unfortunately for a comedy, both are lacking in funny material as well.
The story centers on a drug bust of a cocaine dealer that has manufactured a new product impervious to the nose of a drug-sniffing dog. This new cocaine tastes like an artificial sweetener. Through the predictable plodding of officers Starsky and Hutch, along with snitch Huggy Bear, the crime comes to a predictable end, but not without Hutch trying to figure out how to cash in on the deal and Starsky, in one of his rare funny moments, sweetening his coffee with the wrong sweetener and out-dances John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.”
On one hand, you could dismiss this film as a “Saturday Night Live” spoof of a 70’s TV show. On the other hand, even old comedies worked best when their dithering characters had a moment of moral revelation at the end of the story. For example, Barney Fife always learned something from Andy Griffith. Even the 1970’s Hutch often learned something from Starsky. This small spark of caring for one another gave these earlier characters some personal appeal. Unlike the popular TV heroes played 25 years ago by Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul who embodied the 1970’s with comic style, this new spoof comes across as a worn out clich�.
- How do you believe comedies like this effect the lives of real police officers? Do people have more or less respect for them, or does it make no difference in real life?
- Do you believe that officers who act “outside the law” are able to fulfill their responsibility to protect the peace?
- In the struggle to keep people from being addicted to substances, our government has established drug laws that make it illegal to traffic in certain drugs. Do you believe this is helpful or harmful to the effort?