Rated R - Running time: 1:33 - Released 3/26/99

I went to see The Mod Squad with only two memories of the '60s TV show in mind: that cool scene of the three beatniks running down that darkened tunnel, and that cool music. I was disappointed to find that the film contained neither of those elements. I was more disappointed to find that it also contained no intelligent plot, no interesting characters, and no excitement whatsoever. In the mad rush to remake any old television show they can remember, the producers of the new Squad have drained out whatever lifeblood there was in the show and left nothing but three cardboard cutouts with the same names. If the TV show had been produced by the same people, there's no way Pete, Julie, and Link could have lived from 1968 to 1972.

The Mod Squad revolves around three young convicts who have been given the chance to make amends for their crimes by helping the police as undercover agents (with no guns or badges, of course). The reason they are valuable is because they "blend" — they don't look like cops, and therefore can get past suspicious criminal types. So Lincoln Hayes (Omar Epps), convicted of arson, Julie Barnes (Claire Danes), assault, and Peter Cochran (Giovanni Ribisi), robbery, agree to aid in the investigation of a night club where the management is suspected of running a prostitution ring. But while on the case, the three friends discover a much more sinister situation: There is a major drug trade going on, and the cops are in on it. Soon their supervisor, Captain Adam Greer (Dennis Farina), gets killed, and they have to try to investigate with the entire department against them. Finally, they must go over the heads of their superiors and try to prove that the department is rotten from the inside.

Besides being boring, this movie is dumb. Its script, by Stephen T. Kay, Scott Silver, and Kate Lanier (all relative newcomers), aims at the lowest common denominator of viewer, assuming that we will buy any contrived notion about "dirty cops" that they put on the screen. They're all unscrupulous; they're all in on the take; they're all against our heroes, who are just trying to become productive members of society. But none of those heroes are even likable, with the possible exception of Julie, whom Danes portrays with some human characteristics from time to time. Ribisi seems to still be doing his retarded act from The Other Sister, and Epps is utterly one-dimensional. Michael Lerner (as one of the many bad guys) is the only one with any interesting sense of character, but he only has a few minutes of screen time. Writer Scott Silver also directed the film, but obviously had no idea how to convey to his actors any sense of enthusiasm or energy.

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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