A Squad Couple

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Starsky is fastidious to the point of compulsion and deeply paranoid. Hutch is so laid-back he's almost comatose, cool as a penguin holidaying on ice. In life they would be a screeching misalliance. In a more or less comic movie they are a match made in heaven. And it must be said that tense, tidy Ben Stiller and loose, louche Owen Wilson are perfectly cast in this movie version of the old TV series.

It must also be said that Starsky & Hutch has moments of hilarity a little greater than you might expect of a movie that is just out for a lazy good time. There is, for example, Starsky's visit to his mother's grave. She was a cop too, and he solemnly leaves a doughnut on her headstone as a tribute to a police legend now on her final, eternal stakeout. There's a nice locker-room bit where, after a shower, the men grab hand towels instead of bath towels to cover their butts. And you don't want to know what happens to the pony, a Bat Mitzvah gift to a crime boss's daughter, when a fit of zeal overcomes the cops' habitual wrong-footedness.

There's enough well-timed inventiveness of this sort to keep you alert and diverted, if not exactly gripped, by director Todd Phillips' picture. Movies like this are not meant to be good, though there's no inherent reason why they shouldn't be. They're just meant to set a couple of cute guys, some interchangeable girlfriends and character actors (including a hair-netted Will Ferrell in creepy mode) into mildly amusing motion. You could argue that Vince Vaughn's master crook might be more mysterious and menacing. You could say that Snoop Dogg, as their informant Huggy Bear, could use some better dialogue, though he and Stiller do have a funny contretemps over his pet lizard. You could ... but why bother? This is not a movie to be deeply considered. It's a product to be rated. Call it passable. And probably profitable.