Jewfros and polyester: Fun Starsky & Hutch remake captures 70s kitsch

Where can you see all-in-good-fun Jewish stereotypes spoofed alongside 1970s kitsch, such as waterbeds, fondue parties, disco, leisure suits and bad perms? Check out the movie remake of the ’70s cop series, “Starsky & Hutch,” Hollywood’s latest TV overhaul, which stars Ben Stiller as uptight but righteous David Starsky.

The Jewish cop is so intense, he’ll destroy cars to catch a purse-snatcher; apparently, he’s overcompensating due to a weird Jewish mother complex (his late mom was a revered cop). The film spoofs Jewish custom when he places a donut, rather than a rock, on her grave.

Many of the other laughs stem from his odd-couple pairing with Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson), a charming, rule-bending blond (read: WASP) slacker. If the story unwinds like “a romantic comedy between two straight men,” according to director Todd Phillips, it’s clearly an interfaith romance, a marriage of opposites.

When a corpse washes up on the beach, the gung-ho Starsky pounces on the case; Hutch suggests they push the body back “and hope it floats to the next precinct.” During a visit to “ghetto snitch” Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), Hutch requests a cocktail; Starsky wants “seltzer with a little lime.” Hutch chooses bland undercover disguises; Starsky hams it up as in-your-face “Morrie Finkel of Finkel’s Fixtures,” whose shag is fiercer than Farrah Fawcett’s.

Eventually the partners narrow in on cocaine wheeler-dealer Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), who is part mobster, part nouveau riche suburban Jew. His family’s upcoming simcha is more tsuris-provoking than Starsky and Hutch: “Like I don’t have enough problems,” he kvetches to an associate. “My daughter’s bat mitzvah is turning into a total nightmare.”

The nightmare escalates when the cops crash the bat mitzvah at Feldman’s faux Tudor estate, where the reception is one of those garish ’70s affairs (Feldman’s wearing pink polyester with his yarmulke).

The Jewish Stiller, for his part, was drawn to the film because as a kid he idolized the streetwise, chutzpahdik Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser). “Every Jewish kids’ hero,” he has said.

Growing up in New York, the dark-haired Stiller would pretend to be Starsky while some blond kid on the block was Hutch.

Starsky’s Jewfro is the butt of a joke in the movie when Hutch sneers, “Why don’t you go get another perm?”

The Jewish cop’s reply bristles with indignation: “For your information, my hair is naturally curly.”

Starsky & Hutch” is currently playing in Bay Area theaters

Naomi Pfefferman

L.A. Jewish Journal