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MOVIE REVIEW : Same Old Shtick in 'Stakeout'

July 23, 1993|MICHAEL WILMINGTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Another Stakeout," (citywide) reintroduces us to "Stakeout's" Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez as flighty Chris Lecce and steady-Eddie Bill Reimers, the squabbling Seattle surveillance team from John Badham's 1987 Touchstone cop comedy.

The boys are breezy; their companions glib and glittery. This big studio mix of bang-bang and badinage isn't really a bad movie. But a lot of it suggests a fancy misfire: a super-powered evening at the town's most expensive eatery, where everybody starts out psyched up to have Big Fun, and things start to slide.

What happens? The food disappears. The music is too loud. The conversations are brittle, the jokes are pushed too hard, everyone laughs too much. And, at the end, in case your attention starts wandering, people start pulling out guns and killing each other.

Audiences may be getting wise to sequels--which may be why "Another Stakeout" isn't called "Stakeout 2." There's evidence of a commitment to novelty. The whole "Stakeout" team--producer-writer Jim Kouf, director Badham, stars Dreyfuss and Estevez--seem hot to prove they're not just going to shoot the first movie all over again, like everybody else.

Estevez and Dreyfuss shave off their "Stakeout" mustaches and a horde of women have been invited to break up the Boy's Club atmosphere of that original cop-buddy, damsel-in-distress thriller. The settings are more posh: Las Vegas and the re-created sylvan hideaway of Bainbridge Island, Seattle.

In this pricier caper, the bickering buddies are hunkered down with their boss, wise-cracking, accident-prone Assistant Dist. Atty. Gina Garrett (Rosie O'Donnell), waiting for the mob to find a fugitive witness (Cathy Moriarty), after nearly blowing up half of Las Vegas trying to whack her.

Since the team is now a trio that includes a woman instead of the rowdy testosterone duo, we can expect a new, quasi-feminist slant. That's what it is: Quasi. Women assert themselves in "Another Stakeout" by being imperious and insulting, throwing things, getting violent or making braying buffoons of themselves. At one point, Moriarty's Lu Delano strikes the apogee of macha: kicking Estevez downstairs while he's tied to a chair and gagged. Dreyfuss is bonked himself, earlier on, by his own girlfriend. If you didn't recognize obvious desires to put strong females into a male-oriented genre, you might suspect "Another Stakeout" of misogyny.

But why dig for deeper meanings in something like this? "Another Stakeout" is what might be called a "zap-and-zinger": It's full of fancy locations, explosions, gunfights, dogs, cats, maniacs, double entendres and a lot of charming actors practically ogling us from the screen. Everyone works hard; you can almost see the cast sweating over their jokes.

At the beginning, in their zest to jolt us from torpor, the filmmakers have Dreyfuss and Steven Lambert, as a homeless serial killer, hurl themselves into a loaded garbage truck and burrow around for several would-be hilarious minutes.

Even in the worst circumstances, an evening with Dreyfuss, Estevez, O'Donnell, Moriarty and Miguel Ferrer (the heavy) is not wasted, especially with a slick host like Badham moving them around. But it's Dennis Farina and Marcia Strassman, as the O'Haras, targets of the surveillance, who wind up saving, or at least stealing, the evening.

A prime source of the movie's humor is the O'Haras' interactions with the disguised cops, their flabbergasted, polite expressions as the Seattle sleuths pull one idiotic faux pas after another.

At one point, Farina, madly shoveling down an improvised ice cream sandwich to get away from these next-door lunatics, generates the movie's only killer laughs.

Is it revelatory that the straight people are funnier than the clowns? Maybe not. "Another Stakeout" (MPAA rated PG-13, for two comic-action violence scenes) is neither the best nor worst of a bloated lot of unimaginative sequels. It's pretty much what it's title suggests: another stakeout, another sequel. Another day, another dollar.

'Another Stakeout'

Richard Dreyfuss: Chris Lecce

Emilio Estevez: Bill Reimers

Rosie O'Donnell: Gina Garrett

Dennis Farina: Brian O'Hara

A Touchstone Pictures presentation of a Jim Kouf/Cathleen Summers/Lynn Bigelow production, released by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. Director John Badham. Producers Jim Kouf, Lynn Bigelow, Cathleen Summers. Executive producer Badham. Screenplay by Kouf. Cinematographer Roy H. Wagner. Editor Frank Morriss . Costumes Stephanie Nolin. Music Arthur B. Rubinstein. Production design Lawrence G. Paull. Art director Richard Hudolin. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG-13 (for two sequences of violence in a comic-action genre).

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