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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Stakeout
Stakeout
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // R // August 13, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by D.K. Holm | posted September 7, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Usually when someone tells you that a particular movie is a "guilty pleasure," what they really mean is that they like a girl in it. So if I tell you that, for me, Stakeout is a guilty pleasure, you will know immediately that what I really mean is that I have a crush on Madeleine Stowe.

Not that I believe in "guilty pleasures." I happen to like movies, so I don't have to feel "guilty" over the "pleasure" that they give me. I like all kinds of movies, from Thunder Road to really bad Julie Strain action films, all without the least trace of guilt.

To refer to a class of films as "guilty pleasures" is to suggest a cinematic caste system, as if there were a few movies officially designated as morally preferable to most others. In reality, the guilty pleasure is often a film that is more complex, and more alive to the way that we both see the world and respond to the real pleasures of cinema.

Well, there are a few subtexts to Stakeout, but the main attraction is the buddy cop narrative, and, to me at least, Madeleine Stowe. She has big dimples and a kind of Cher feel to her (and she is kind of an ur-Jennifer Lopez), and is very effective in movies where she is passionately in love with someone. Stakeout was her first motion picture after a string of about six TV movies, and in it she plays Maria McGuire. Maria is the girlfriend of "Stick" Montgomery (Aidan Quinn), who happens to be in jail for robbery. His partner (Ian Tracey) helps him escape, and then Stick is on his way back to Seattle to see his girl. Knowing that they is one of the places where Stick might go, the FBI get the local cops to watch her house 24 hours a day. The night shift goes to Chris Lecce (Richard Dreyfuss) and Bill Reimers (Emilio Estevez). It doesn't take Lecce long to fall for Maria.

Stakeout is textbook buddy film. If you wanted to write one today, you could do no better than to study the text of this movie. It has all the essential components. There's the set up of the crime. There's the "funny" introduction of the two buddy cops, an incident that gets them assigned to a "simple" stakeout assignment. There are lots of "funny" (and irrelevant) hijinks concerning the pranks that Dreyfuss and Estevez play on their "ladyhawking" daytime counterparts, Forest Whitaker and Dan Luria. It's all irrelevant and meant to be summer fun and on that level the film actually works.

Stakeout was directed by John Badham for Touchstone, the division of Disney that was invented to handle more "adult" stories and themes. These are Disney movies in which you get to hear dirty words, which also is why the company is called Touchstone films, and not Disney. Most of the Touchstone films seemed to star Richard Dreyfuss, who must have seemed like a cozy figure to the slightly older audience Touchstone was seeking to lure in. It is kind of funny watching Dreyfuss trying to act tough and do a hard guy street accent. On the other hand, it's legitimately funny to have Dreyfuss quote The Graduate in passing (a movie in which he had a small part), and even Estevez quoting Jaws.

But Stakeout does address, in its half-assed way, the issues of voyeurism that other directors, such as, say Hitchcock, bring up in much better films. Chris and Bill watching Maria are obviously like us watching movies, even this movie. It's one of the better "bad" voyeurism films, like Addicted to Love and the similarly themed Burt Reynolds movie Sharkey's Machine.

The real thrust of the film is the spectacle of seeing a man get himself into an impossible situation and see how he gets out of it, a cinematic pleasure that goes back as far as Buster Keaton. You could also see that kind of situation in other movies from around that time, such as Tootsie. Stakeout is all about Chris finding himself yet again stuck in Maria's house yet again, or stuck having to leave it and avoid being observed by the daytime cops or implicated in the case in some way. Then the point is to build to the final confrontation between Chris and Stick (and it must be said that Quinn makes a truly terrifying criminal).

As Chris and Bill sit watching Maria and get more involved in her life, the two men's exploits are contrasted with those of another buddy team, Stick and his pal (Tracey) making their way to Seattle to both see Maria and get the money he has secreted in her house.

Stakeout was Badham's last hit. Before that, he had done War Games and Saturday Night Fever. After this he did Bird on a Wire, some TV movies—and Another Stakeout. His movies are often about unlikely partners who have to overcome hardships, but then, that's what most American movies are about. Badham is rather personality free but an efficient filmmaker. At the very least, he doesn't get in the way of the fun, or the romance that develops between Chris and Maria.


The DVD

VIDEO: Disney has done a fine job with Stakeout. For some reason this disc makes the film (1.85:1 enhanced for wide screen televisions) look as good as it did the week it came out. Australian John Seale's cinematography (he did The Talented Mr. Ripley and Harry Potter) is excellent and well-served by this disc).

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is probably underutilized for this film, though it is effective for a couple of extraneous car chases, and for the ambient noise of Maria's house. There are also English subtitles.

MENUS: After the standard, amusingly vandalized FBI warning, an animated, musical menu offers 20 chapter scene selection for the MST3K version, and 12 chapters for the original on the other side. When you click play movie a "creeping hand" comes out and clicks the play button after you.

PACKAGING: The keep case cover is the original poster, a painting showing Dreyfuss and Estevez hiding under a bed while a woman takes off her stiletto heeled red shoes—a scene that doesn't occur in the film. A one-page insert has the chapter list and a few more stills. The label bears only the title and some technical information.

EXTRAS: There are no real supplements on this disc. Not even the trailer. Instead you get trailers for Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo and Spy Hard.


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