I entered the cinema with a feeling of apprehension, knowing that I was to see yet another translation of an iconic TV show, another indulgent ride through the 70’s, with added campness and a massive budget. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with the resulting movie, and it even managed to introduce some much needed humour into the TV/film adaption genre.
Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller play the two characters for laughs, mixing an element of parody into the film. This, with any other pair of stars, would have been disappointing, but the familiarity between Stiller and Owen, (having worked on ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, ‘Zoolander’, and ‘Meet the Parents’ together) makes the comic moments gel far better. I was even surprised by the casting of rapper Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear, who in outrageous pimping suits seems to be in his element, and also pretty funny, especially when he agrees to wear a wire, or rather a sizable radio transmitter stuck to his body.
My misgivings about the casting and the humour of the film set aside, I began to enjoy what was an entertaining ramble through the 70s. The film offers detailed allusions to the decade, among them are Wilson singing Don’t Give Up On Us Baby, which is apparently a ’77 hit for David Soul (the original Hutch), an Easy Rider Sequence, and of course, the striped tomato itself, the Ford Gran Turino. The original actors for the series even have short cameos, which suggests a certain enthusiasm for the TV show from director Todd Philips, while at the same time adding to the element of self parody throughout the film.
The plot, however, is pretty nonexistent, but, to be fair, if you set out to watch this movie as a 70’s extravaganza with added explosions and gags, you won’t really care that much. It involves a ruthless drug baron who has developed a new form of cocaine that is completely undetectable by sniffer dogs. Will the duo stop him in time? Of course they do, but not before a series of fairly disjointed jokes, comic situations and car chases. Like a Gran Turino smashing through stacks of cardboard boxes, the results are haphazard: the director, who has ‘Road Trip’ to his name, borders his humour on the slightly sick at times, especially when Stiller confronts the drug baron at his daughter’s birthday party; but still, everything comes together in an enjoyable, if slightly messy whole.
If you don’t like 70’s nostalgia in any of its forms, however, do not bother going, as Saturday Night Fever sequences, massive earphones, and simply wrong-looking clothes abound. If the thought of that turns your stomach, it’s probably best to wait for something like ‘The Passion of the Jesus Christ’, which also revels in its period detail, but a safe 1,970 years away from anything that resembles A-line flares.