The Mod Squad Movie Review

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That fact that "The Mod Squad" opens with a dictionary definitionof "mod" appearing on the screen -- altered to include GenerationY hipsters -- did not bode well for the intelligence level to which thismovie was aiming.

The fact that this definition was followed by another forthe word "squad" left me with little hope that the pic wouldhave anything going for it besides 90 minutes of Claire Danes in tummytops.

Then came the opening credits with psychedelically colored,MTV-edited mug shots of Linc (Omar Epps), Pete (Giovanni Ribisi) and Julie(Danes) -- who are convicted juvies working undercover for the LAPD --accompanied by a voice over saying things like "this little girl wasas hard as the come." Claire Danes? Please! She can't even walk toughwithout looking like one shoe is missing a heel.

The latest in a barrage of so-called "classic"TV shows adapted for the big screen, "The Mod Squad" is a realstretch. The 1968-1972 B-grade cop show about three far out delinquentsnarc-ing for the pigs, man, was never exactly quality programming to beginwith (Early Aaron Spelling. Need I say more?), and this feature film doesn'ttry very hard to improve on it.

Directed by Scott Silver ("johns"), the pictureis largely soundtrack over substance and doesn't even bother filling inthe blanks regarding how or why our heroes came to be cops. Instead itrushes to introduce a resolved-in-an-hour, TV-style plot about drugs missingfrom an evidence locker, crooked cops and a couple of low-rent pimps/mobsterswho, by some wild coincidence, each have a connection to Julie, Linc orPete.

When their police department mentor (Dennis Farina) isframed and murdered, the mod squad, which has never been viewed favorablyby the rest of the cops in the precinct, sets out to solve the crime ontheir own, amidst a backdrop of wah-wah guitar action sequence music andthe requisite cop movie running gags.

"I feel like one of us should say 'I'm gettin' tooold for this s---,'" Pete complains, as if acknowledging it somehowexcuses the movie's complete lack of originality or common sense.

My favorite scene is the one in which for no logical reasontwo ski-masked white guys break into Linc's ghetto pad and start shootingup the joint in broad daylight.

The sad thing is, "The Mod Squad" is a wasteof three good, young leads. Danes has already established herself as oneof the better actresses of her generation in varied roles in films like"Little Women," "Home for the Holidays," "U-Turn" and "The Rainmaker." She gets the most character to chew on herewith a sub-plot about a much older ex-lover (Josh Brolin) who comes backinto her life. Their relationship is poorly established and, of course,he must inevitably be one of the bad guys. But Danes makes their rekindlingof believable nonetheless.

Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan," "TheOther Sister"), as the unhinged clown ofbunch, and Epps ("Higher Learning," "Juice") as thestoic Linc, whose vintage Lincoln Continental gets repeatedly batteredin one of those running gags, share a resentful dodge and parry liftedfrom the "Lethal Weapon" movies, but somehow manage to freshenit up a tad.

But aside from successfully giving his picture an early'70s revivalist air, which seems to be in vogue in crime movies this year("Payback,""TheCorruptor"), Silver has very little tooffer in the way of consistency, ingenuity or flair.

If it looks like a bad '70s cop show, sounds like a bad'70s cop show and has a plot like a bad '70s cop show, what's the pointof making a feature film? Just watch a bad '70s cop show, if you can findone.

Funny thing is, even in a world of 100-plus cable channels,bad '70s cop shows haven't been revived. This movie is a cogent reminderthat there's a good reason for that.

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The Mod Squad Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, Friday, March 26, 1999


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