Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Stretch (2014)

It's the kind of thing that we've seen many times before. A film that features a character having one helluva bad night. This particular misadventure is written and directed by Joe Carnahan (who hasn't done wrong by me yet), and stars Patrick Wilson as the poor sod whose night just looks set to go from bad to worse to absolute worst ever.

Wilson is a stretch limo driver, hence the name of the movie. He actually wanted to be an actor but that doesn't seem to be panning out for him. Which leaves him driving a limo, struggling to make enough from each pay check to pay back the debts that he incurred when he was addicted to alcohol and gambling. As someone new has taken over the ownership of those debts, Stretch (as he is nicknamed) suddenly has until midnight to get together $6,000. Or things will be broken. That's not good. His one chance to make some big money lies in keeping a big customer satisfied. Roger Karos (a bearded Chris Pine) is an eccentric who can often drop some major tips. Unfortunately, he also requires people to sometimes go way above and beyond the call of duty to earn their money. Which leads to Stretch getting thrown in to a few dangerous situations. Perhaps his acting skills can actually start to help him now.

Stretch starts off strong and never really lets up once the premise is established. Carnahan has obviously set out to have as much fun as possible, and that fun is infectious, thanks to the direction, pacing, and cast. It plays out, I guess, much like an action comedy created by John Hughes. This is wish-fulfilment stuff, but that doesn't make any of it any less satisfying. The soundtrack, often sounding like some alternate tracks considered for Drive, also helps to make this an easy pleasure.

There are a couple of fantastic cameos (including one that I can't possibly mention here because the surprise factor helps it to be even funnier than it already is), a rare decent turn from Jessica Alba, playing the main office controller trying to help Stretch achieve his goals for the night, and James Badge Dale is perfectly fine as Laurent, a man who could either help or seriously hinder Stretch in his attempts to keep Karos happy. The two performances from Pine and Wilson allow them to go over the top and entertain in a way that they haven't really been allowed to before now. Okay, Pine had his fantastic turn in Smokin' Aces, which this film should remind you to check out, but I've not enjoyed Wilson this much since he made such a strong impression on me in Hard Candy. Ed Helms, playing the spirit of a deceased limo driver, also does well, despite the fact that his character feels like one quirk too many.

Don't think, however, that I'm overlooking its flaws. Oh no. I've just mentioned that "one quirk too many" problem, which will irritate others much more than it bothered me, and there's also the feeling of overfamiliarity with this kind of scenario. Also, the ending is just a bit too neat and tidy, another factor that makes this feel like a John Hughes movie aimed at an audience just a bit older than the usual selection of teenagers.

Judging by the word of mouth, Stretch is finding a decent little fanbase since arriving in download/shiny disc form. It deserves it. Nothing ground-breaking, by any means, but there are plenty of laughs provided here. And that's all it really sets out to do.


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