The Mod Squad Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1999

What are you...some kind of 'mod squad'?
Omar Epps, Claire Danes, and Giovanni Ribisi

Pardon my French, but THIS MOVIE SUCKS!!! Not since last year's "The Avengers" have I seen a movie so worthy of reviling. "The Mod Squad", the latest cinematic rehash of Baby Boomer television, is of so little redeeming value that it manages to make "Wing Commander" look like high art in comparison. The studio execs at MGM should be ashamed of themselves for unleashing such drivel on audience sensibilities.

Based on the television series that ran between 1968 and 1973, this crime-drama-wannabe for the Baby Boom Echo casts Claire Danes ("Romeo & Juliet" and "The Rainmaker"), Giovanni Ribisi ("The Other Sister" and "Saving Private Ryan"), and Omar Epps ("Scream 2") as the crime-fighting trio comprised of good-kids-gone-bad. Julie (Danes) is a former drug-addicted riot grrrl, Pete (Ribisi) is a bad boy from Beverly Hills, and Lincoln (Epps) is a reformed pyromaniac. Together, they form an undercover unit that helps solve crimes for the Los Angeles Police Department under the watchful eye of Captain Greer (Dennis Farina of "Out of Sight"), who has provided the threesome an alternative to doing hard time.

These kids can get into a thousand places that we can't.

Their latest case takes them to a downtown club where it is believed that a teen prostitution ring is operating. With Julie posing as a waitress, and her two associates working the floor, they discover that there is a lot more going on than initially meets the eye. Pretty soon, Greer winds up dead, apparently the victim of a drug deal gone bad, and the 'mod squad' are the first suspects. With only their wits, streetwise attitude, and Tommy Hilfiger threads to help them, the crime-fighting trio uncover a nefarious drug deal and some crooked cops.

We're just tryin' to get really deep undercover...

Unspooling like an extended music video, "The Mod Squad" is sorely lacking a plot, intelligent dialogue, and decent acting. Director Scott Silver ("Johns") overdoes the MTV-school-of-filmmaking to the point of being farcical-- it seems that the movie is nothing but a series of musical interludes of the gang strutting around in slo-mo trying to be cool, with the occasional chase scene thrown in for good measure. And in the infrequent instances where there is actually dialogue, the poor writing makes the conversations sound clichéd and strained, which led to a number of unintentional chuckles from the audience. The dialogue even fails at a purely functional level-- with very little useful exposition on plot elements, it is easy to become lost with the jumpy narrative. Furthermore, the line delivery is extremely painful to listen to-- the actors might as well have been reading off cue cards (case in point-- check out the stilted conversation between Pete and his estranged father).


Danes, Ribisi, and Epps have all done better work, and this lazy effort will most likely be regarded as the low point in their sophomore careers. Playing poorly developed characters that are wildly inconsistent in behavior from scene-to-scene, there isn't much for this trio of actors to do other than pose, pout, and strut to the annoying and incessant hip-hop soundtrack. The sooner they put this behind them, the better (extra sympathy goes to Ribisi, whose numerous attempts at comic relief end up misfiring badly).

"The Mod Squad" is an exploitative exercise in teen moviemaking that has been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. By-the-numbers plotting, mediocre acting, and atrocious dialogue are what's in store for those moviegoers misled by the otherwise catchy trailer. Too idiotic for the people old enough to remember the television show, and too lame for the teen crowd, this is one movie that will vanish from theaters with little fanfare.

Images courtesy of MGM. All Rights Reserved.

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