|The Mod Squad
1999 - R - 92 Mins.
|Director: Scott Silver
|Producer: Tony Ludwig, Alan Riche and Ben Myron
|Written By: Stephen T. Kay
|Starring: Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi, Omar Epps, Dennis Farina, Josh Brolin
|Review by: John Ulmer
60s and 70s television show remakes are everywhere. "Charlie's Angels" and "Starsky and Hutch" are just two of the more profitable franchises (the latter of the two bringing in $28 million in its first week). But both of those series tend to have fun with what they're parodying, rather than remaking. "The Mod Squad" is basically just a remake of the show of the same title, minus any real sort of substance and humor, and only a low amount of actual fun. It could have been a blast, but it's just rather mediocre.
Three young delinquents (Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi and Omar Epps) are recruited by a cop (Dennis Farina) to infiltrate many various operations (prostitute rings, drug circles) that police could never get into. But after their boss is murdered and they uncover a conspiracy, the three delinquents take it upon themselves to find out the truth behind the crime.
The plot is pretty weak, even for a 60s TV show remake. "The Mod Squad" ran from 1968 - 1973, with somewhere in the vicinity of 120 episodes. I never saw any, but I can't imagine this film adaptation does the show much justice.
The cast is considerably OK. Danes is quite enthusiastic and pretty enough for her sweet-blonde role, Ribisi is fine as a criminal and Epps is decent enough, too. Farina ("Get Shorty," "Another Stakeout") is a good actor, always very funny, but here his role is completely wasted (literally!) and short on the sort of sly humor that would have been appropriate given the actor behind it.
The dialogue is really corny, and so are the characters' actions. Television shows need not worry about smart dialogue or characters, because they're usually 30 minutes long (sometimes an hour), and we just get "hooked" on what's going on. Can you imagine if a soap opera made its way onto the big screen? It'd completely flop. People watch television shows because they like to see continuous stories with recurring characters they learn to love over a certain time period.
You can't get any joy out of watching a bunch of actors try to grow on you for 90 minutes. If "Alias" had ever started out as a big-screen movie, it might have flopped, because let's face it: the show is not exactly quality material. People watch it because they get hooked on it, and they enjoy watching the stories and the revelations, like an old woman addicted to her "General Hospital" episodes.
So here's proof that if "The Mod Squad" had originally been a movie, there probably would have been no television show. Despite some rather bad word-of-mouth, this movie isn't a terrible one. I've seen much worse, and compared to big-screen disasters like "Freddy Got Fingered," or low-budget ones like "The Blade Master," this is nothing very laughable at all.
But compared to the fun factor of "Charlie's Angels" or "Starsky and Hutch," "The Mod Squad" falls flat on its face. It's not very funny, it's not very fun, and it's not very original. It's a cash-in, which is something Hollywood is not in short supply of right now. If you miss "The Mod Squad," you're not missing anything that hasn't been done before.