Volume 73, Number 47 | March 24 -30, 2004


Koch on Film

“Starsky & Hutch” (-)
Many people will love this harebrained film, some of whom were devotees of the 70’s television series on which the movie is based. I never saw a single episode of that show.

The format is a buddy comedy involving two cops: Starsky (Ben Stiller) and Hutchinson (Owen Wilson). The other main characters include Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) and a Jewish drug wholesaler, Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). Their humor blends well with the principals.

While solving crimes, Hutch occasionally does some stealing himself, and Starsky uses his souped up Ford in ways that the Marx Brothers would have done if the technology had been available. The interactions of the cops are mostly slapstick including lots of dumb jokes and suggestive homoerotic material which abounds in the film. It would be tedious to describe the twists and turns of the plot, and besides, I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who might want to see it.

HS enjoyed the film and most of the audience appeared to as well. Even though the acting is quite good, I didn’t really enjoy it, and I can’t recommend that you take the time to see it.

“Secret Window” (-)
Johnny Depp is a phenomenal actor, but I don’t agree with his politics. He is an expatriate, now living in France. In the context of the Iraqi war, he made the unforgivable remark, “Anywhere is better than the U.S.,” the land of his citizenship and the country that made him famous.

“Secret Window,” adapted from Stephen King’s book, “Secret Window, Secret Garden,” received less than flattering reviews. Since I have always found Depp’s performances unique and worth watching, even when the movie was not, I decided to see this film. I should have known something was radically wrong when the theater was only 30 percent full the weekend the film opened. Those who stayed away displayed sound judgment. The plot is ridiculous.

Because the movie is a who-done-it mystery, I must limit my comments so as not to reveal too many details. It opens with Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) having a flashback as he lies on a couch in a rural house where he is struggling to write a book. His only companion is a friendly dog. The flashback is of him discovering his wife Amy (Maria Bello) and her lover Ted (Timothy Hutton) lying in bed in a sleazy motel. Mort and Amy are now separated.

John Shooter (John Turturro) appears at Mort’s home wearing a large black hat and speaking in a hillbilly accent similar to Renee Zellweger’s in “Cold Mountain.” Shooter accuses Mort of plagiarizing his short story, and the balance of the film involves the interaction between Mort and Shooter. A number of gruesome deaths occur throughout the film, but at one point the movie becomes so foolish, it has to rely solely on music and unexplained noises for excitement. The cast performances are ordinary at best.

HS was more sanguine about the movie. “True,” he said, “the plot is absurd and contrived, but most of them are. The rustic scenery of the forest, lake and cabin are lovely. The silliest part was Mort’s description of a private detective he hired who went missing.”

I would encourage you not to see this film. Let’s teach Depp that he cannot dismiss us as cretins willing to accept any movie in which he appears.

- Ed Koch


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