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Movie Reviews

The Mod Squad  

Starring: Claire Danes, Omar Epps, Giovanni Ribisi, Dennis Farina, Michael Lerner Directed by: Scott Silver Written by: Tony Ludwig and Ben Myron

I must confess that I've never been a fan of the original television series "The Mod Squad." I do not know much about it. But that's a rather moot point, seeing as though the filmmakers are quite aware of the fact that most of their target audience won't have the slightest idea what The Mod Squad is. We know this because at the very beginning, we are treated to a textbook definition of both the words "mod" and "squad". (Although I don't know how necessary it was to include "squad" in there.)

Immediately after that, we get a first hand look at each member of The Mod Squad along with a voice-over description of their respective backgrounds. They are Julie Barnes (Claire Danes), Lincoln Hayes (Omar Epps), and Pete Cochrane (Giovanni Ribisi). All three were brought on board the police department by Lt. Adam Greer (Dennis Farina). His idea is to have the kids work undercover, blending in to the seedy Los Angeles night life, thereby assisting in drug busts, prostitution arrests, and so on.

There's trouble in the department. Some drugs were stolen from the police evidence lock-up, and naturally the other cops assume it's Greer's bunch. When one of the officers is killed, the heat really gets turned up, and the Mod Squad must break free from the department to solve the case on their own.

Of course, the movie is quite shallow and rather empty, which didn't surprise nor bother me. (From what I understand, the television show was equally shallow and empty.) What did surprise me was how shockingly slow and boring it is. I don't know how faithful this film adaptation is, but if it was this dull on television, I'm truly surprised the show made it beyond the pilot.

Also, director Scott ("johns") Silver isn't sure if he wants to update the movie for today's audiences or not. He sort of straddles the issue - it takes place in the present, but the set design in numerous scenes has a seventies feel to it; and the musical score is taken right out of the seventies. Not committing to a consistent style from which the story filters indicates the lack of consideration as to what audience this movie is intended for. As a result, this is a film that doesn't play to any particular audience.

The movie is chock full of terrific young actors, but they have all done better work - Claire Danes in "Little Women" and "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet", Omar Epps in "Higher Learning", Giovanni Ribisi in "Saving Private Ryan" - and seem too sensible to be playing these roles. Maybe unknown actors might have worked better.

The script was by Stephen Kay, Kate Lanier, and Silver, although I'm willing to bet the idea to remake "The Mod Squad" into a feature film came from a studio exec who perhaps remembered seeing part of an episode and thought "Yeah, today's youth could probably relate to something like that." That's the way the movie feels - half-baked, rushed, and not well thought out.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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