Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson take their well-worn personas back to the groovy days of afros, butterfly collars, disco, and long sideburns in Starsky & Hutch, a delightfully silly resurrection of the '70s cop show/camp touchstone, helmed by Old School director Todd Phillips. Typecast to perfection, Stiller plays a more macho version of his usual diminutive bundle of seething neuroses. Desperate to live up to his mother's legendary reputation in law enforcement, Stiller's by-the-books control freak is saddled with a new partner in Wilson, a sweet-natured space cowboy complete with a likable kid sidekick (who's straight out of Wilson's films with Wes Anderson) and a laissez-faire attitude toward crime prevention. Together, Wilson and Stiller inch their way toward the crime ring of Vince Vaughn, a drug lord who, in the time-honored tradition of villains everywhere, hides his nefarious evil under an immaculate façade of upper-class philanthropy. Beyond merely upgrading his Wilsons, from mopey Luke to loopy-genius Owen, Phillips has improved considerably as a co-writer and director since Old School. His new film looks better, is brisker and breezier, and doesn't telegraph and belabor gags as clumsily. It would be hard to find a better cast, too. Vaughn smartly underplays the villain role, ensuring that his character's bourgeois Jewish respectability resonates as strongly as his criminal misdeeds, while gifted improvisers and frequent partners Stiller and Wilson have a loose and lively chemistry that's well-suited to the demands of the buddy-cop genre. Factor in Snoop Dogg's silky re-imagining of Antonio Fargas' legendary "urban informant" Huggy Bear, plus a hilarious disco dance-off that in its own way kicks as much ass as any of the more technically accomplished face-offs in You Got Served, and Starsky & Hutch becomes a textbook example of how a remade '70s show can feel like an enjoyable lark rather than cultural recycling run amok.
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