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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 04/01/1999,

The Mod Squad

Add another to the scrap heap of hip '60s and '70s TV shows reduced to cinematic rubble by the inspiration-starved minds in Hollywood. Aaron Spelling's tele-series tapped into the rebellious anxiety, far-out lingo, and anti-establishment garb of the time. Here, the filmmakers seem content to regurgitate the scene, leaving the ripe, potentially retro cop drama disjointed and grating. Not the least of the film's offenses is the way the trio of punks rehabilitated into an undercover police unit are surrealistically saddled with '70s speak in a '90s world, or the way they cruise the streets of LA in classic, gas-guzzling boats while everyone else drives a Japanese compact. Still worse is the characters' postured malaise, the inane dialogue, and a muddled plot that has something to do with dirty cops, a cache of drugs, and a frame-up.

Of the title trio, the electric Giovanni Ribisi and Omar Epps -- in the one of the more cynically funny scenes, he dances cheek-to-cheek with Michael Lerner's gaudy mobster -- get their moments to shine. But the adorable and talented Claire Danes -- her punky caricature is a clone of Bridget Fonda's in Point of No Return -- is left to intone "fuck" and strut around in hip-hugging outfits that don't suit her. Miss Danes's future is not as a sex symbol, and The Mod Squad is way too "freaky" of a mess to be mod.

-- Tom Meek