A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has very explicit sexual situations and references for a PG-13, including "comic" gay overtones, a threesome (with girls kissing each other), and the swapping of mild sexual favors for information from an informant. A character accidentally ingests cocaine, and his strung-out meltdown is played for humor. Other characters drink and use cocaine (off-camera) and the plot centers on a huge cocaine deal. Characters are in peril. One is killed and a child is injured. There's some strong language, including racial epithets. A strength of the movie is the way that diverse characters work together. Some audience members may be offended by the fact that the villain is Jewish.
What's the story?
In this refresh of the classic 1970s TV show, Ben Stiller plays Starsky, the play-by-the-rules cop who takes everything very seriously. He has to try to live up to the standard set by his policewoman mother, but he acts as though he's following a script. He's teamed up with Hutch (Owen Wilson), the take-it-easy cop whose casual attitude makes him popular with everyone from pretty cheerleaders to cute neighborhood kids to slightly shady informants (including rapper Snoop Dog, the essence of real-life cool as Huggy Bear). At first they do not get along, then they develop grudging respect for each other, and then affection and true partnership. A murder leads to the pair investigating a businessman (Vince Vaughn) who may have something to do with a cocaine operation. S&H go undercover in Easy Rider drag as "Kansas" and "Toto" (you'll get that if you remember the 1970's) to question the owner of a biker bar. They interrogate a cheerleader (and are struck speechless when she takes her clothes off). There's a hilarious disco dance-off. Someone actually says "Sit on it." And the original Starsky and Hutch show up for a funny cameo.
Is it any good?
Movies based on TV shows are tricky, but STARSKY & HUTCH gets it right. Cynical observers used to wonder whether the warm friendship between Starsky and Hutch was really deeper than 1970's television could contemplate. This movie tweaks the idea a little, with the pair stumbling cluelessly through some mildly suggestive situations that feel like a part of its retro vibe. Vince Vaughn brings his edgy silkiness to the role of the bad guy, a high class drug dealer. Will Ferrell contributes a funny cameo as a prisoner.
But the movie is all about the chemistry between Stiller and Wilson, who bring out the best in each other. Starsky narrows his eyes intensely as he looks down at a dead body. "You've punched your last ticket, amigo." Hutch peers over at him. "Are you trying to tough talk a dead guy?" After that, it's just ringing changes on the most appallingly cheesy aspects of that cheesiest of decades. The soundtrack features "Afternoon Delight," "I Can't Smile Without You," and the hit song by original Hutch David Soul -- "Don't Give Up on Us, Baby." The clothes are one hilarious "what were we thinking" after another. It's silly, but it's a lot of fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what made Starsky and Hutch change their minds about each other. Why is it good to have friends who are not just like us? What does it mean to say "To err is human, to forgive divine?" (By the way, contrary to the two mis-attributions in the film, that was said by Alexander Pope.)
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