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ĎAnother Stakeoutí

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 23, 1993

 


Director:
John Badham
Cast:
Richard Dreyfuss;
Emilio Estevez;
Rosie O'Donnell;
Madeleine Stowe;
Cathy Moriarty;
Dennis Farina;
Marcia Strassman;
John Rubinstein;
Miguel Ferrer
PG-13
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent


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In the 1987 "Stakeout," screenwriter Jim Kouf achieved a perfect balance of suspense and comedy, as Seattle cops Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez kept watch on an escaped convict's girlfriend, their telephoto lens focused and their nerves frazzled. It was Hollywood farce at its best, full of spiraling complications (Dreyfuss fell in love with the girlfriend, for one thing) and crackling character gunplay. It wasn't the stakeout that mattered. It was the people in it.

In "Another Stakeout," in which the two Seattle cops go on another eavesdropping mission, Kouf has upped the comic ante and downed the rating. This PG-13-rated sequel (the original was an "R") introduces wacky Assistant D.A. Rosie O'Donnell and her not quite fully trained mutt. It also relegates the gritty side of things to a "Kindergarten Cop" menace level. But if its dangerous underpinnings are no longer there, the movie doesn't hurt for laughter. In fact, it suggests the pilot episode of a new sitcom series, in which regular stakeout experts Dreyfuss and Estevez find themselves dispatched to a new spying lair every week.

One sequelish day, O'Donnell informs Dreyfuss and Estevez their services are needed again. Cathy Moriarty, a government witness against the mob, has narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by the bad guys, and is now on the lam. Dreyfuss, Estevez and O'Donnell are to pose as a vacationing family and rent the summer house next to Moriarty's friends (Marcia Strassman and Dennis Farina) in case she makes a visit.

To add insult to repeat work, Dreyfuss has to pretend that O'Donnell -- a kooky individual who makes bizarre pseudo-gourmet dishes -- is his wife. Estevez has to play their son and shave his beloved moustache. The new, dysfunctional (and disgruntled) family members must learn to live together, keep tabs on their neighbors and remember their false biographies when challenged.

Meanwhile, Dreyfuss must patch things up with Madeleine Stowe (his love from the first movie), who wants marriage or an end to their relationship. This affair, between an aging, gray-haired, working stiff and a beautiful, independent, high-maintenance woman approximately 175 years younger, is one of the movie's more unintentional jokes.

All farce breaks loose when O'Donnell asks the next-door couple over for dinner, and Estevez sneaks out to their deserted house to plant a bug. It's a night full of comic errors, as Dreyfuss and O'Donnell make excruciating mistakes about their relationship, and Estevez encounters unforeseen trouble. At one point, when Dreyfuss makes a furtive romantic call to Stowe, Farina overhears and concludes Dreyfuss is having an extramarital affair. This family, he tells wife Strassman, is a bunch of psychotics.

"Another Stakeout" -- like the original, directed by John Badham -- feels more like a rousing encore than a bold, new development. It's basically straight-out situation comedy, merely punctuated (or interrupted) by the evil doings of hitmen, FBI agents and other gun-toting suits. To those who seek these things, don't worry: People still get plugged with bullets. But comedy is the main artillery and Dreyfuss and Estevez, effortlessly replaying their elbow-nudging relationship, do most of the shooting.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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