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The history of TV adaptations to the big screen is a checkered one. The two smartest, The Brady Bunch and The Addams Family, followed two very different routes. The former recontextualised the consummate 70s family in contemporary society while the latter was fastidiously faithful in transferring every last detail of the original from one format to another - Starsky & Hutch falls somewhere between the two in execution but fails be as quite as good as either.

Director Todd Phillips has never been noted for his subtlety. The ham-fisted, Porky's-esque adventures Road Trip and Old School would have those kings of bad taste the Farrelly Brothers reaching for the sick bag. It’s pleasing to note though, that Phillips has been remarkably kind here, and while he wouldn’t know a pair of kid gloves if they whapped him in the kisser, he’s harnessed many of the great points of the original show without descending into pointless parody.

In the TV series that ran between 1975 and 1979, detectives David Starsky and Ken ‘Hutch’ Hutchison were two mavericks who did what it took to get perps off the streets. If that meant a bit of rough stuff or bending the rules then so be it.

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are our eponymous heroes, but the characters are drawn in a far more formulaic manner than the originals. Stiller is Starsky, the earnest, by-the-book workaholic with an inferiority complex about his now dead, star detective mother. Hutch, meanwhile, is a fast-living dude with an eye for the ladies and an allergy to police paperwork. Wilson’s lackadaisical charms work perfectly as the workshy Hutch, and Stiller excels - again - as an uptight, but loveable doofus and the pair do

perform some real buddy movie magic. Even Snoop Dogg makes you forget the rough and ready charms of Antonio Fargas as the ever- understated cat with the word on the street, Huggy Bear.

The plot is slight but effective: the pair go after slippery coke dealer Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) who is planning a big sale in Bay City. Despite false starts, dead ends and run ins with long suffering Captain Dolby - played by former Blaxsploitation star Fred Williamson - they close in on Feldman via a pair of foxy cheerleaders, some quality undercover dress ups and the

Part homage, part parody, mostly good fun

obligatory wah-wah guitar driven car chase in Starsky’s faithful Ford Torino.

It was inevitable that Starsky & Hutch would be played for laughs. Even serious attempts at cop thrillers struggle these days, never mind those with this kind of baggage. A smattering of corny moments aside, it is smartly played and skilfully acted - especially by Stiller - and for once you don’t leave the cinema wishing that your beloved originals had ever been resurrected.

(Mark Robertson) I General release from Friday IQ Mar. See Buy it this


Pitch perfect humm’r

A vegetarian hippy and a rock stars road manager are sitting in a diner in the middle of the Californian desert and the hippy looks at the manager's burger and says: ‘l've got a problem with dead flesh.‘ Turns out they both have. seeing as they've stolen the body of recently deceased country rock singer Gram Parsons and are now being pursued by Parsons' distraught straight-laced father, his golddigging ex-wife and the law.

Director David Caffrey and

28 THE LIST 18 Mar—l Apr 2004

writer Jeremy Drysdale's oddball road movre dramatises (with a great deal of pitch perfect offbeat humour) the immediate aftermath of the death of the music legend. The ex-Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers singer made a pact with his road manager, Phll Kaufman (here played with wonderful swaggering grace by Jackass' Johnny Knoxville). that whomever shook off his mortal coll first would be ritually burned. thus freeing his splrit. Ill their beloved Joshua Tree National Park. When Parsons took a fatal tequila and morphine cocktail overdose in 1973, Kaufman stuck to his word.

Caffrey and Drysdale keep the tone of the film low key enough so that the humour doesn't overwhelm the poignancy of the story. nor allow it to be swallowed up by sentimentallty. Most of the laughs come from the pairlng of odd couple Kaufman and Larry (Michael Shannon). a spun-out. drug- addled hippy whose brlght yellow Cadillac hearse provides the road movie with lts wheels. Christina Applegate revs things up as the bitchy, bitter ex of Parsons. who remains the absent dead centre of this thoroughly entertaining film. (Miles Fielder)

I Genera/ release from Friday 79 Mar. See feature. page 20.

Fortnight, page 703, and Shopping, page I 73.


Sado-fetishistic unedifying mess

As subtle as a spear jabbed under the ribs. and more boring than a lifetime's worth of sanctimonious sermons. Mel Gibson‘s sado-fetishistic account of the last 12 hours of Christ's life is a crude. unedifying mess. Featuring more gratuitous violence than the average ‘video nasty'. it presents a pick'n’mix selection of the four gospels. plus a pedestrian stumble-through of The Stations of the Cross all in the baroque. blood-drenched style of a horror movie. The moonlit. mist- wreathed Mount of Olives. where we first see Jesus struggling with an androgynous Devil. looks like a set left over from a 603 Italian horror film. The flesh-ripping gore. demonic children and head-banging sound effects derive from modern horror. but their impact is more numbing than visceral.

Jlm Cavlezel's chronically tin-charismatic portrayal of Christ's physical suffering and mental torment evokes neither metaphysical awe nor human sympathy. Despite a relentless torrent of beating. flaying and piercing. we feel nothing for a two-dimensional figure whose profound teachings are presented in flashback as pop prorno~style inserts and trivial sound bites. On the plus side. Caleb Deschanel's burnished cinematography hints at something more profound, as does the exquisitely pained face of Maia Morgenstern. who plays Christ‘s mother. But the thoughtful gravitas of Hristo Naumov Shopov's prevarlcating Pontius Pilate contrasts starkly with the empty. hysterical ranting of Mattia Sbragia's Caiaphas. the Pharisee high priest determined to see Christ crucified.

What believers will make of this, God only knows. As an atheist l longed for the radical vlslon of Pasolini's The Gospel According to St Matthew or the clever lronies of Denys Arcand's Jesus of Montreal. (Nigel Floyd)

I General release from Fri 26 Mar: See feature, page 20.