We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Dave Starsky and Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson aren’t in love—they just like each other a whole bunch. Though you may get a different idea from the musical cues in Starsky & Hutch, the big-screen incarnation of the ’70s buddy-cop show: “Can’t Smile Without You” opens the film, “We’ve Only Just Begun” plays when the partners have a spat, and even “Don’t Give Up on Us Baby”—original Hutch David Soul’s soft-rock hit—makes an appearance when the 2004 Hutch (Owen Wilson) sweetly serenades a couple of lovely ladies…while looking straight at Starsky (Ben Stiller). But who can blame him? You can care about the story involving Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), a drug dealer who peddles an undetectable “new coke,” if you want to. But it’s more or less just a way to kill time in between scenes of Stiller, decked in poufy hair and a thick belted cardigan, breaking chairs as the uptight Starsky, or Wilson, in turtlenecks and wide lapels, doing a disco-era version of his easygoing-surfer schtick. (He prefaces an impending threesome with “I don’t think we even have to judge it—it’s too natural.”) True, Starsky & Hutch is little more than 97 minutes of sight gags and goofy jokes, but it ends before it gets old. Writer-director Todd Phillips, with the help of co-scripters John O’Brien, Scot Armstrong, and Stevie Long, brings his Road Trip and Old School sensibility to the characters, portraying them as hopeless softies who nonetheless struggle to prove how tough they are. (When Starsky gets teary and Hutch reassures him that it’s good to cry, he responds, “It’s great, but I’m not crying. I’m not a crier. I work out.”) There are homages to the TV show sprinkled throughout, of course, including Starsky’s red 1976 Gran Torino and cameos by the old crime-fighters themselves. Wilson reacts to the appearance of Soul and Paul Michael Glaser by saying, “Who the hell are these guys?” The movie’s triumph is that you don’t really need to know. —Tricia Olszewski