With this likable cast you simply want the picture to be better than it is. Probably would've worked better as a "Barney Miller" episode.The Miami-set police comedy Hot Stuff is occasionally diverting and has a quartet of appealing performances from its stars, but it never manages to get a whole lot of mileage out of a central premise that isn't exactly ripe with potential. (The fact that it's loosely based on a true event is about the funniest thing about it.) The department's special Theft division is about to be on the receiving end of a massive budget cut due to the low rate of court convictions of the criminals its cops have apprehended -- they're being released and put back on the streets because of "liberal" judges, of course! When one of the officers busts someone trying to fence stolen goods in a seedy pawn shop, he gets an idea: he and three others can go undercover as the new proprietors of the place, use the money normally paid to street informers to buy the "hot stuff," and video-record all the illicit transactions so as to skirt accusations of entrapment. In no time at all they're attaining more merchandise than Sears and Roebuck, with lowlifes bringing in everything ranging from stereos to microwave ovens to machine guns to drugs to (I swear) chickens. But how can you make something expressively cinematic out of this? The movie was co-written by ace crime novelist Donald E. Westlake, and though there are a couple of amusing bits, nothing particularly memorable manages to break free; there's a wearying slightness to it all, and we're left with nothing to respond to except the good-naturedness of the cast, even though they're not as aptly used as they should be. Jerry Reed, a country singer/actor, showed real screen presence as the southern truck driver in Smokey and the Bandit, and you keep waiting for a standout bit from him, and it never materializes. Suzanne Pleshette has some plucky charm, but that's about it. Luis Avalos gives his lines some lift. As for Dom DeLuise, he does a semi-inspired high-on-marijuana bit and deftly delivers a few throwaway lines, but his gift for inspired outrageousness has been hamstrung by none other than himself: he's making his directorial debut and hasn't the requisite skills to bring anything viable out of the second-rate material, rendering Hot Stuff not a capital offense by any means, but a misdemeanor at the very least.Skip it.