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The Mod Squad
Bland, witless film makes TV series look good

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Bland, witless film makes TV series look good

As a rule, television shows don't make good movies. And when the series that spawned the film wasn't any good, the project is pretty much assured of being a stinker.

Lump "The Mod Squad" in the latter category. Not only is this lurid action-thriller lacking wit and excitement, it almost makes its source material look good by comparison. (Considering how trashy the '70s television show was, that's really saying something.)If that's not enough, the film completely squanders the talents of a good cast (including Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi and Dennis Farina), most of whom look bored and uninspired.

The title characters are Julie Barnes (Danes), Pete Cochrane (Ribisi) and Lincoln "Linc" Hayes (Omar Epps), three youthful criminals who are given one last shot at redemption: to work as undercover detectives for the LAPD, under the direction of Capt. Adam Greer (Farina).

But their new careers -- and lives -- are threatened when Greer turns up dead in a back alley, with what appears to be a cache of stolen drugs. Suddenly on the run from their fellow officers, the trio tries to find evidence to clear Greer's name . . . and just stay alive.

While laying low, they uncover evidence of a police conspiracy. Julie also encounters an old boyfriend (Josh Brolin), who may hold a key to unraveling the mystery.

Not to reveal too much, but if you can't see where this half-baked plot is going after 10 minutes, you must not be paying attention (and no one would blame you).

However, the extreme predictability of the story is only one of several major problems with the film, including horrid miscasting.

Neither Danes nor Ribisi has the physical presence required for their roles, and Epps looks much too old to be playing a juvenile delinquent. Danes sleepwalks through her role, and the others try too hard to make up for that.

Worse, director/co-scripter Scott Silver ("johns") attempts to give the whole thing a hip, '70s sensibility -- aided by Gerston's blaring theme music and some stylish production touches. But aside from Ribisi's lame one-liners, the film is sorely lacking in humor and the action scenes are punchless.

"The Mod Squad" is rated R for violent fistfighting, beatings, gunplay and car crashes, profanity, crude sexual slang and other sexual talk, simulated sex, female nudity, gore, simulated drug use (cocaine) and attempted rape.