Saturday, October 18, 2014

'Stretch' review

Sometimes Hollywood works in ways that nobody can quite understand. Joe Carnahan's latest film, Stretch, was originally scheduled for a theatrical release in April and Universal was signed on as a distributor. But in the end, Universal ended up pulling the film off of their release slate and decided to unceremoniously dump it into the VOD market in early October. The film, a satirical comedy about a limo driver set in Los Angeles, stars Patrick Wilson, Brooklyn Decker, Jessica Alba, James Badge Dale and Chris Pine and is a high-energy action comedy with charm and wit to spare. Why was this possibly sent straight to VOD? We'll never truly know, but Stretch is still a film that you really need to see. It might not have the tightest story, but its characters and mood are infinitely appealing. This is an entertaining film from start to finish.

Stretch (Patrick Wilson) is a limo driver with little to no motivation in life anymore. He's a recovering alcoholic who was also addicted to cocaine and gambling for a long time. He eventually cleaned up, but his bombshell girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker) dumped him for an NFL quarterback. Now, he's depressed and stressed and constantly seeing the ghost of the greatest limousine driver of all time, Karl (Ed Helms). One day, gang leaders inform Stretch that he has until midnight to deliver $6,000 of his gambling debts or he will be killed. To gain the necessary money, Stretch decides to drive a crazed billionaire client (Chris Pine). Throughout the night, Stretch experiences all sorts of wacky adventures involving FBI agents, secret clubs and wannabe rappers.

Stretch is a weird and bizarre movie, but it's a good kind of weird. The absurdity of the humor was quite endearing to me and the characters in this movie are funny and entertaining as well. Mix that in with great performances from Patrick Wilson and Chris Pine, along with a great soundtrack and just a terrific vibe in general, and you've got a movie that is just plain fun. The story gets a little messy and wild at times, but this is a movie that is nuts and crazy and never slows down at all.

Patrick Wilson is an actor who's done good work in the past, but this is the first movie where I've been truly impressed by his acting. He manages to be manic, likable and crazy- often at the same time. Wilson's Stretch narrates the film and is constantly providing funny insight. I don't typically like overbearing voiceover, but it worked in this case. In addition to Wilson's great central performance, Chris Pine does brilliantly unhinged work as Roger Karos, eccentric and possibly insane billionaire/criminal. Whether it's skydiving nude or dressing up like a samurai for a sexually charged party, Pine is down for anything and completely owns the role.

Stretch also doubles as a wicked Hollywood satire, so it's not surprising that there are numerous cameos and small bit parts for famous actors. Ed Helms is awesome as the ghost as a depressed limousine driver legend who haunts Stretch during the day. Jessica Alba and Brooklyn Decker manage to have really good moments with their limited screentime. James Badge Dale lights up the screen whenever he shows up, which really isn't shocking anymore (he's a very strong actor). Finally, we get cameos from Ray Liotta, Shaun White and an especially memorable appearance from David Hasselhoff. Great cast all around.

Director/screenwriter Joe Carnahan is really the reason this movie works. I've praised the cast like crazy, but without Carnahan's deranged and hilariously vulgar script and his terrific direction and pacing, this movie wouldn't work at all. The story isn't the strongest, so Carnahan really had to create a bunch of creative and audacious misadventures for Stretch and company to experience. And that he does. This movie has a lot of outrageous material and it easily could have gone completely off the rails, but for the most part, Carnahan manages to keep the movie focused.

Stretch's pacing and sense of style work to its advantage as well. With bright colors and a strong Hollywood atmosphere, Carnahan manages to create a terrific sense of place. And the pacing is pitch-perfect. This movie just never slows down. It's funny and entertaining from the first scene and it just keeps going. It's also a compact film at 94 minutes, which is a nice runtime for a film like this.

In the end, Stretch isn't a masterpiece, but it's a movie that I can imagine watching a few more times and being entertained each time. The wacky situations and strong performances are quite memorable and Carnahan's dialogue is deliciously hilarious and vulgar. I'm disappointed that this film isn't getting more exposure, but I'm also glad that Universal let it see the light of day. It's extremely enjoyable and a movie that a lot of people should be seeking out.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                           (7.7/10)

Image Credits: Screen Crush, Geek Tyrant, I Watch Stuff     

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