Another Stakeout (1993) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language and some sexuality
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Emilio Estevez, Rosie O'Donnell, Dennis Farina, Marcia Strassman, Cathy Moriarty, Miguel Ferrer, John Rubinstein
Director: John Badham
Screenplay: Jim Kouf
Another Stakeout is the sequel to the hit 1987 flick Stakeout, a buddy cop movie that had a good theatrical run, and an even better one on home video. Although it would seem inevitable, it took six years for a sequel to finally be made, and judging by some of the changes, it seems that the creative minds at work decided to ditch much of the formula of the first film and change it into more of a Lethal Weapon knock-off. Like Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2, Another Stakeout introduces the "third wheel" comic relief character played by Rosie O'Donnell (A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle) in an attempt to mix things up, and hopefully, produce even funnier results than the first time out. Unfortunately for Badham (Saturday Night Fever, WarGames) and crew, after two recent Lethal Weapon sequels, the shtick was already wearing very thin, with this latest attempt at a cartoonish cop vehicle is already a few years late to the party.
Seattle detectives Chris Lecce (Dreyfuss, Moon Over Parador) and Bill Reimers (Estevez, Loaded Weapon 1) are back with another stakeout assignment, this time traveling to a lakeside home to keep an eye on some neighbors that may be a location where an endangered federal witness who is to testify against the mafia might choose to hide. Tagging along is an assistant in the D.A.'s office (O'Donnell), who pretends to be Chris's wife as their cover, and stepmother to Bill. Through a series of bumbling circumstances, the trio are obligated to interact with the couple they were sent to monitor, keeping them within a hair's breadth of blowing their cover at all times.
It's usually a bad sign for a comedy when things are desperate enough for the director to go to a dog for a funny reaction shot, and Another Stakeout does this more than once. The comic situations here, while having their moments of fun, are very forced at times, with antics that are rarely found outside of sitcoms or children's fare. The witty banter of the first film is still here, and it is performed quite well, but the attempts at cuteness that were mostly absent in Stakeout run rampant here. Perhaps it's the Rosie O'Donnell factor, whose delivery consists of gasping in astonishment at the boorish male pigs, while doing her usual bit of singing a theme song or show tune now and then to give the semblance of a bubbly personality. Whereas the R-rated Stakeout had the men leering in lust at a nude woman, or playing sick pranks on one another, this PG-13 sequel employs a more dilute approach, with O'Donnell playing to the ladies, and introducing a loveable pooch for the kids to enjoy. Only some intense violence at the beginning and end keeps this from being family fare.
Even with the broad-based approach at comedy, for most of the film's running length, the characters are likeable and situations do amuse enough to entertain modestly. There are occasional lulls, such as the wholly contrived Chris/Maria relationship, which is depicted as being on the rocks, probably as an excuse to deliver a payoff in the end, as well as to have a reason to keep Madeline Stowe's face onscreen from time to time. Any entertainment value is pretty much gone in the last half hour, when the action takes center stage. Like the comedy, there's a tendency here to try too hard to deliver better action than you've seen before, ramping up the shootouts, crashes and explosions, until whatever's going on in the plot feels almost meaningless. Jim Kouf's (Secret Admirer, Indian Summer) screenplay squeezes in a scant amount of lighthearted gags amid the heavily violent final scenes, but even these aren't very funny, especially when juxtaposed between shots of people dying.
Another Stakeout has some entertainment value if you seek a few good laughs and over-the-top, mostly senseless action, and don't really give a damn as to how it's presented. A high tolerance for Rosie O'Donnell is a must, as she is clearly at her most Rosie-like here, which can be either entertaining or annoying, depending on your personal take on her sense of humor. If only Hollywood would realize that when it comes to a successful formula, the sequel should at least try to keep the same balance of elements for it to have any chance of repeat success. By cranking up the humor and action quotients, all subtlety is lost, and the first Stakeout was successful primarily for those delightfully subtle touches. As sequels go, it isn't terrible, but it's probably fortunate for us that it only made a third of the original's gross, as any more films in this series would probably have proved too painful to endure.
©2004 Vince Leo