If TV Land is airing classic reruns on cable, somebody's probably working on a big screen version—especially if it's a crime series from the '70s. Charlie's Angels. The Mod Squad. S.W.A.T. And now Starsky & Hutch.
Ken Hutchinson and David Starsky know each other only by reputation as the film gets started. Hutch is a bad-boy cop who loves adrenaline and hates rules. He's more fond of skimming cash and hangin' with hoodlums than catching crooks and filing reports. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," he likes to say. Starsky's his polar opposite. He'll risk his neck to take down a purse snatcher, even when there's only a few bucks on the line. He punches the clock at 8 a.m. and loves the law. His favorite expression? "In Bay City, if you cross the line, your [anatomical slang] are mine."
Capt. Doby doesn't like either one of them. So, figuring they "deserve each other," he pairs them up as partners, and waits for the fireworks to commence. The case they're on involves a drug dealer who has perfected a variety of cocaine undetectable by drug-sniffing dogs, and is about to distribute it all around Bay City—but that's just a prop. The real fun isn't seeing the bad guy get busted, it's watching Starsky and Hutch bust each other's chops.
It may be a stretch to call it positive, but Starsky and Hutch don't let their dramatic differences get in the way of them working together. In fact, it's their diverse personality traits that help them track down the drug dealer. Much more praiseworthy is Hutch's commitment to a neighborhood kid. He spends time with him, "baby-sits" him after school, and tries to look after his general welfare. Also, Starsky goes out of his way to apologize when he wrongs his partner, and the idea that everybody deserves a second chance gets a good deal of screen time.
Street hustler-turned-police-informant Huggy Bear wrongly credits God ("The greatest Mac of all") with coining the phrase, "To err is human; to forgive, divine."
The camera often ogles girls in short shorts and bikinis. Women are also seen wearing only underwear. In a locker room, men cover up with little more than hand towels. While Starsky and Hutch are interviewing a possible witness, the woman asks them if it's OK for her to change clothes. She then proceeds to strip down to her birthday suit, rendering them speechless (moviegoers see her back and the sides of her breasts several times).
Gay humor abounds throughout the film. Script writers abuse the old Happy Days expression "Sit on it" by injecting it with homosexual connotations. When Starsky and Hutch interrogate a prisoner, he refuses to give them information until they satiate his lust for them. They pose suggestively, acting out some of his twisted fantasies; Hutch shows him his belly button. Later, Hutch makes out with two women, who kiss him, then each other (it's implied the threesome goes further off-camera).
At a bat mitzvah, a singer adds raunchy lyrics to the already sexual song "Feel Like Makin' Love," referring to having sex in "topless bars," on trampolines, and "right here" at this party. The classic "Afternoon Delight" plays suggestively after the detectives put on a display for an informant with homoerotic fetishes.
The movie kicks off with the drug dealer shooting one of his henchmen. Gun battles between cops and criminals are routine, as are car chases and fistfights. Supposedly undercover, Hutch helps a group of guys pull off an armed robbery. A dog bites a man. Starsky shoots the tail off an iguana. High on cocaine, Starsky tackles and pulls a gun on a man. Angry, Starsky kicks chairs and throws them across a room. He also plays Russian roulette with his pistol (he thinks the gun is empty), and shoots a horse through a garage door. Starsky and Hutch rough up some suspects. And they get roughed up by others. Storming into one man's apartment, they're greeting by a hail of precisely thrown kitchen knives, several of which lodge in their arms and backs. A house blows up. Cars crash. Huggy slugs a guy with a golf club. A woman on a yacht is thrown overboard.
Crude or Profane Language
Jesus' name is used and abused close to a dozen times. God's gets a similar workout. The f-word pops out once, as do a handful of s-words. Milder profanities and crudities bring the total to at least 75.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Starsky and Hutch are tracking down a cocaine shipment, so naturally, they have to try some themselves. Thinking a packet of the powder is "artificial sweetener," Starsky dumps it in his coffee, but Hutch, along with his cheerleader dates, snort it up knowingly (it's not seen onscreen, just verbally referenced later). Stripped of his badge and gun, Hutch drinks himself into oblivion to dull the pain. He's also seen drinking several other times, as are most of the other characters. Jokes and comments about drugs make up a good chunk of the script. A couple of people smoke cigarettes; one smokes a cigar.
Other Negative Elements
It's shown that Starsky's dogged determination to put away the bad guys without breaking the rules isn't healthy and actually undermines his ability to be a good cop. It's not until he loosens up, gets himself hyped up on cocaine and starts ignoring "minor" infractions that he becomes an effective detective. Hutch steals money from a dead guy's wallet.
Starsky & Hutch's 1975 laid-back production values—and reasonably restrained moral values—don't translate very well in 21st century Hollywood. So when Road Trip director Todd Phillips got done with the big screen version, he'd added lots and lots of extra spice. The red 1974 Ford Gran Torino looks just like it did. But everything else gets a makeover, turning Starsky & Hutch into a comedic spoof that feels more like Beverly Hills Cop IV than classic TV.
That's not always a bad thing, at least from an artistic perspective. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson actually infuse their characters with energy and edgy personality; things their decades-old inspirations sorely lacked. But it's most certainly a downer when it comes to content. Families will be exposed to things on the big screen they would never, ever see on TV Land.