The Secret Window

Starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
Screenplay and Directed by Todd Philips.
Running Time: 101 minutes
Rated: PG
Set in the 1970s in a metropolis called "Bay City,' two police detectives, Ken "Hutch' Hutchinson (Wilson), and Dave Starsky (Stiller), are regularly in trouble with their bosses for entirely different reasons. Hutch tends to do things a little too much by the book, whereas Starsky plays loose and fast all the time. Assigned to a major case involving a drug cartel, this dynamic duo has to rely on the street-smart police informer Huggy Bear (Dogg) to crack the case. They chase all the baddies around Bay City in their souped-up 1974 Ford Torino, and win the day.

Starsky and Hutch is a parody on the very popular television series of the same name. Everything about this film is played for laughs. Director and screenwriter Todd Phillips has even gone for the more flat lighting tones of 1970's television to help give this film a suitably nostalgic edge.

The television show took itself seriously, but one wonders how when this film lifts a scene from the original like our fearless detectives running along the beach in slow motion to the beat of a 70's pop song. It must have been a less cynical age.

There is at least one major change to the style of the TV show, and it is not pleasing. The liberal use of "Jesus' and "Christ' would never been tolerated then, and it is sad to think it is now.

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller invest enough of their present comic personas with the style of the TV characters for us to recognise the original, and enjoy the new spin being put on them. The manoeuvre between parody and impersonation is harder than it looks.

But it is rap artist Snoop Dogg who steals every scene he is in. His high-camp portrayal of the petty criminal and snitch Huggy Bear is the most memorable thing in the film.

I found myself smiling more than laughing throughout Starsky and Hutch, until David Soul and Michael Glasson make an appearance at the end. It took courage, or a lot of money, to turn up in a film that so comprehensively and affectionately rips off the characters you created.

Let's just hope no one thinks it's time to resurrect the original, which is better left fondly remembered and unseen.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office,

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