Reviews

‘Stretch’ Review: A Sweet, Perverted and Exciting Adventure Film

By  · Published on October 8th, 2014

‘Stretch’ Review: A Sweet, Perverted and Exciting Adventure Film

Blumhouse

Joe Carnahan has carved out an eclectic career for himself as a director. Three years ago he made his best film to date with the emotional and tense dram, The Grey. That film followed The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces, movies that are best described as fun. One was an unabashedly over-the-top popcorn the movie, the other a wacky R-rated shoot’m up, and the voice that gave us those two films has now returned with Stretch. Happily though, this is a more consistent and successful blend of sorrow and anarchy.

Kevin Stretch (Patrick Wilson) moved to Los Angeles with the dreams of becoming an actor, but instead found himself behind the wheel of a stretch limousine. After overcoming his substance abuse and gambling problem, Stretch is at his lowest point – he has zero money to his name, a job he’s unhappy with, an ex-girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker) he can’t get over and the ghost of his old pal Karl (Ed Helms) haunting him. The only bright spot in his life is his friendship with a co-worker named Charlie (Jessica Alba). To make matters worse, he has to come up with $6,000 in one day to payoff a gambling debt. To achieve the seemingly impossible, he agrees to drive around “eccentric” billionaire Roger Karos (Chris Pine), a whizkid known for his antics and, better yet, his generous tips.

Set mostly over one night, this wicked step-sister to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours ultimately yields promise, even if the start of the film doesn’t.

Concerns are raised immediately as the film opens with a frequently unnecessary voiceover. Often it’ll highlight redundant information including Stretch mentioning he sees his dead buddy when he’s exhausted only to have it repeated by Karl a few seconds later. The film gets off to a bumpy start for a few other reasons too, but the fear that Carnahan has delivered a dud is quickly squashed by the refreshingly streamlined narrative, an amiable protagonist, and an array of animated supporting performances.

In a movie overflowing with a long list of fun appearances, it’s Pine who comes out on top. To call the Star Trek star’s performance overly exuberant is an understatement. When Karos literally drops into the picture, he’s bare-assed with a big pipe in his mouth and a beard likely hiding all sorts of narcotics. Pine delivers on every oddity this introduction promises. No gesture or line is too big, and while he’s previously proven himself a charming movie star Stretch shows he’s really a character actor that happens to have the face of a star. His performance also benefits from the fact he has no shortage of poetic profanity to spout.

Carnahan’s script – based on a story by himself, Jerry Corley, and Rob Rose – is full to the brim with gags. Not all jokes hit their mark, but most do, especially when Pine, Helms, Decker, Ray Liotta or Jason Mantzoukas are onscreen. That sounds like the whole cast, but that doesn’t even begin to cover this large ensemble. The R-rated humor is at its most rewarding as the jokes find pay-off in the third act where they help create a well-rounded arc for the script and characters. Over the short span of 88 minutes, both Carnahan and Wilson deliver a real journey amidst all the ridiculousness. How far will Stretch go, not only save himself from a beating, but to start over? When will he be the one in the backseat of a limousine? Is he doomed to become Karl? These are questions he’s facing more than ever on the worst day of his life.

Now, we do see Stretch wrestle with these questions in a movie where he has to chase down an American Idol contestant and be belittled by David Hasselhoff, but his personal crisis still brings a considerable amount of weight to the film. Carnahan has pulled off a real balancing act with Stretch as this often mean-spirited and outrageous comedy has an unexpected optimism to it. It’s a surprisingly nice movie. Somehow the sweetness of Stretch’s journey is never at odds with an otherwise perverse ride, and while Stretch is a little rough around the edges it’s also endearing, often exciting and packed with laughs.

The Upside: Wilson is easy to root for as Kevin Stretch; a very funny and efficient script; a ton of lively supporting performances; an energetic score; a real tonal success

The Downside: The first 15 minutes; the voiceover doesn’t always work; by no means a serious issue, but the ending is obvious from the start

On The Side: Joe Carnahan will refund your money if you don’t enjoy Stretch.

Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.