The Mod Squad


You’d pretty much have to be, in the edited-for-television language of the youthquake, out of your ever-loving mind to enjoy this feeble movie version of the Aaron Spelling series, which aired from 1968 to 1973. Along with the obligatory car chases and wacka-wacka-wacka guitar solos, there’s a listless plot involving dirty cops, briefcases full of cocaine, and skeevy informants getting thrown against chain-link fences. After an early scene in which the squad’s mentor
(Dennis Farina) touts his baby-faced charges’ ability to infiltrate “a thousand places” ordinary cops cannot, the trio’s cover is immediately blown. But then again, even if they hadn’t been unmasked, this Mod Squad wouldn’t have uncovered anything useful. Ordered to infiltrate a drug-
infested nightclub, Julie (Claire Danes, alternately brittle and weepy), a recovering alcoholic, ducks into a restroom to fuck an old acquaintance (Josh Brolin); Pete (a hyperactive Giovanni Ribisi) gets wasted and humps a girl on the dance floor; and Linc (Omar Epps, brooding like he’s doing Richard II) makes a great show of lurking at the bar and looking as though he’s spying on the club’s management.

There are enough utterances of the words “freak,” “right on,” and “man” to suggest that those involved in the production get a kick out of the manners and mores of TV-hippie culture; even the film’s cinematography (faded Kodachrome-style blues and grays) and production design (thrift-shop chic) reek of Nixon-era anomie. But if the makers of the new Mod Squad had really studied their source material, they would have noticed how weak it was to begin with, and ended this mess after 60, rather than 94, minutes of pain.