Friday, April 29, 2011

Another Sequel: "Another Stakeout" (1993)

I admit it. I liked the original "Stakeout." I saw it in its initial run in the '80's, and thought Dreyfuss and Estevez had some weird chemistry that worked. The script was a little routine, but with flashes of intelligence. Madeleine Stowe was cute, Aidan Quinn was a good villain, so the whole thing was pretty enjoyable. This sequel reunites the three elements that made the first one work: cast, director, and writer; something rare for sequels. So why does this outing stink so bad?

The film opens promisingly enough with Tony (Miguel Ferrer) trying to kill mob trial witness Lu (the always entertaining Cathy Moriarty). He gets a lot of federal agents and her boyfriend killed, but Lu disappears after a fiery explosion and some very good camera and stuntwork.

Cut to our heroes Chris (Richard Dreyfuss) and Bill (Emilio Estevez). They are chasing a baddie not related to the film's main plot, exchanging one liners and running around. Problems with this sequel are already evident. Chris and Bill are not funny here. Their dialogue seems forced, it does not flow naturally like the first film's did.

Chris and Bill are assigned to stakeout a house where Lu may be hiding after her disappearance. Also along for the ride is Gina (Rosie O'Donnell), an assistant D.A. with no prior police experience. Hope she doesn't mess anything up! The trio watches the house of Pam (Marcia Strassman, who has not aged since "Welcome Back Kotter") and Brian O'Hara (Dennis Farina). Sure, Lu might be there, but it's a long shot, she is probably somewhere else. Although if she were, we would not have a movie. Unless, the trio finds a bigger crime happening...no, that would have been more interesting.

Chris poses as Bill's dad, and Gina is the second wife. They do not really learn their fake backgrounds, because they obviously will not have any contact with the O'Haras. Of course, they do. Chris and Bill do not get along with Gina. Tony is also looking for Lu to finish the job. John Rubenstein is here in a completely unnecessary role as a prosecutor who is really in the mob's pocket. You may have figured out that Lu is at the O'Hara's, but director Badham's climax does not match the opening for sheer visceral excitement. Chris and Bill do not find Lu by lieu of the stakeout, but by an ineptitude not evident in the first film.

Who is to blame? The cast? Dreyfuss and Estevez go through the motions, but the humor is not there. Nothing flows smoothly, they overplay everything. There is a tedious running gag about Bill having to shave his mustache. Chris is trying to get back together with first film stakeout subject Maria (Madeleine Stowe). Hmm, a sequel where the couple from the first film has split up...I think the last movie series where the couple actually stayed together for the duration was William Powell and Myrna Loy in the "The Thin Man" series. Maria has turned into a shrew, so I did not care one way or the other.

The script is problematic. The crooked prosecutor, the hitman who can kill dozens of bit players but never gets that one fatal shot off against our heroes, the stressed police captain (Dan Lauria from the first film); these are all stock characters who even Syd Field must be tired of seeing. You really cannot blame Rosie, she gamely goes through her schtick, but Dreyfuss and Estevez are so busy with each other, O'Donnell is given no one to play off of. Strassman and Farina are blanks, dropped before the film's typical shoot-shoot-bang-bang finale.

John Badham...you know the name. For every good film he makes ("Saturday Night Fever," "Blue Thunder"), he matches it with a bad one ("Nick of Time," "Bird on a Wire"). In this sequel, he has a tendency to tilt his camera to the side, for no plausible reason. He tries to shoot this as a comedy, keeping every awkward scene Estevez and Dreyfuss needed to try to keep things light, when the editor should have shaved twenty minutes off of this.

"Another Stakeout" is a mess. Nothing works, which is a surprise since so many things from the first film advanced to the sequel. Thankfully, the series did die here, sparing us from such badly titled entries as "Still Another Stakeout" and "Stakeout Academy: Mission to Moscow." Treasure your goodwill for the first film, and ignore this one. (*) out of five stars.