"Starsky & Hutch" exceeds expectations, which you have to admit have been lowered considerably when it comes to all of the movies that have been made recycling old television shows. This is perhaps to be expected when you understand that the target audience for these films consists of people who have probably never seen an episode of "I Spy" or "The Mod Squad," and who are would be more familiar with the famous poster of Farrah Fawcett than any single episode of "Charlie's Angels." But this 2004 comedy has two advantages.
First, there is a rich tradition of buddy films where a "good" person and a "bad" person team up and overcome their differences to work together, extending back from Riggs & Murtaugh to Butch & Sundance, all the way back to Katie Scarlet & Miss Melly. "Starsky" and "Hutch" plays with this tried and true formula, mainly by tweaking it, but the key thing is that the film embraces the idea at the same time it is lampooning it. This is, all things considered, a gentle comedy telling the story of how Starksy and Hutch came to meet, even with Snoop Dogg bringing something of an edge to Huggy Bear.
Second, there is pretty good chemistry between Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson as Starsky and Hutch; they should since this is their sixth film together. In fact, this is the most chemistry Stiller has shown with anybody in one of his films since he worked with DeNiro. Stiller is helped by the fact that his Starsky tends to go over the top but still manages to get the job done. You keep thinking he is about to make a fool of himself, and he certainly moves in that direction, but things never get so far out of hand that he becomes just a big joke.
The big joke in the film would be the plan of bad guy Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) who has invented a former of cocaine that has even German shepherds cannot detect. In other words, Feldman has invented (wait for it) "new Coke." But the plot is merely an excuse for Stiller and Wilson to do scenes together and it the spirit of true partnership each gets humiliated in turn, such as when a jailhouse snitch (Will Ferrell) makes Hutch show his belly button (then things get really weird), and then they get humiliated together. It is not like we do not know that in the end Feldman is going down, because he is going down hard, man, so the plot is not the point. Furthermore, the supporting case of Juliette Lewis, Amy Smart, Carmen Electra, and Fred Williamson as Captain Dobey is pretty good for this sort of film.
Plus, you have Starsky's beloved bright-red supercharged Ford Gran Torino, which he drives like a crazy person and then becomes incensed by the thought it might get scratched or dented. The homage to the original consists of the requisite appearance by Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, as well as Wilson warbling Soul's one hit, "Don't Give Up on Us Baby," a joke that is going to be lost on most of the viewers. Actually, throughout the film director Todd Phillips makes great use of the music of that period, such as "We've Only Just Begun" and "Afternoon Delight," to add a ironic counterpoint to the proceedings.