Some ideas that sound really bad in theory turn out to be far, far worse in practice. Opening a bar that also serves as a Laundromat and cyber-bistro is one of those ideas, as is hiring Scott Silver, the filmmaker behind the unremarkable, dialogue-driven independent movie Johns, to co-write and direct a big-budget, big-screen adaptation of The Mod Squad. As the primary artistic force behind the film, it would probably be fair to blame Silver for much of The Mod Squad's worthless script and lack of visual style. But it would be wrong to blame him entirely, as the film's resolute failure is clearly a group effort requiring not just an awful script and flat-footed direction, but also terrible acting, an intrusive and derivative score, and a plot that seems to have been lifted from an unproduced Baretta teleplay. What little plot it does have has something to do with the titular group of young, undercover, ex-criminal detectives (Omar Epps, Giovanni Ribisi, and Claire Danes) and some sort of criminal scheme involving corrupt police officers, a rock manager (Michael Lerner), and Danes' ex-boyfriend. The Mod Squad's plot, like those of similar fiascoes The Fifth Element and Wing Commander, is at once simplistic and incomprehensible. No one involved seems to have any idea what he or she is doing, including gifted actors Danes and Ribisi, who turn in performances that run the narrow gamut from uninspired to embarrassing. It's too early to know for sure, but The Mod Squad is bound to wind up as one of 1999's worst films.
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