Stretch was supposed to be released in theaters months before anyone wound up being able to see it. It was more or less dropped by its distributor right around its release date, and only managed to get a VOD release afterward. What’s odd is that it’s pretty good, and it probably could have done some decent business at the cinema had it been given a proper marketing campaign. We’ll just have to settle for watching it at home, and spreading its insanity through word of mouth.
Our hero is Stretch (Patrick Wilson), a wannabe actor, current limbo driver, and someone who used to be pretty hooked on alcohol, drugs, and gambling. He’s racked up a significant — to most people — debt of $6,000. It was higher than that, but he’s been making his payments every month like a good boy. However, a new owner means the debt needs to be paid, in full, by tonight. So, Stretch has to figure out a way to make that kind of cash in a single day. This is where an eccentric billionaire, Roger Karos (Chris Pine), fits into the picture. Karos tells Stretch that if Stretch does everything he wants for the night, his tip will be enough to cover the debt.
Thus begins a night of crazed insanity. Karos is a bit of a loose cannon, and even though he disappears for most of the film’s second act, he sends Stretch on a wild goose chase which winds up with our protagonist getting involved in a police investigation, which means there are shootouts, chases, and a whole lot more than your average limbo driver wouldn’t be able to deal with. But Stretch needs the money, and he’s armed with powerful self-motivation phrases and exercises, which earlier in the day he decided he’d try out. He picked the right day.
Stretch is a pretty energetic movie. It goes in so many different directions all at once that you can’t help but laugh. It has such a manic pace to it, and it does attempt more than a few genuine jokes, that you’ll be laughing with it all the way to its finish. Just when you think things can’t get sillier — or worse for Mr. Stretch — they do.
A lot of the laughs come in the form of the supporting cast. There are some well-known actors in the film, all playing interesting, yet small, roles. Cameos come in the forms of David Hasselhoff and Ray Liotta — playing themselves — while the likes of Ed Helms, Brooklyn Decker, and Jessica Alba have not-insignificant roles surrounding Patrick Wilson. And Chris Pine — whose name I didn’t see anywhere in the credits — is hilarious, and reminds us that, as a character actor, he is at his most effective.
The film also sees a mix of depressing situations and levity. One minute, we’ll be watching the happiest man in the world commit suicide, and then the next we’ll be laughing at an absurd situation Stretch has been thrown into. Stretch opens the film in an incredibly depressing situation — and that’s before he’s told his debt is due that night. But, a few minutes later, and the film has us in stitches. This is an impressive balancing act from director Joe Carnahan.
Does it all work? Of course not. Some of the gags fall flat, the ending — mostly just the last scene — is predictable, it gets off to kind of a slow start, and much of the voiceover narration is unnecessary. Still, none of that greatly detracts from what is overall a pretty satisfying experience. It’s a reminder that even if films have flaws, ones that you can easily point out, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically something to dismiss. All but the best of movies have problems, but if they’re good enough, those issues don’t hinder your enjoyment too much.
Stretch might have some problems, but it’s a funny, exciting, and … motivational(?) ride, one which you’ll likely find yourself wanting to take more than once. It’s quite humorous — and does a wonderful job balancing its humor with its darker moments — it has some thrilling action, and it uses its rich supporting cast well. Chris Pine is particularly impressive. You won’t be bored by Stretch‘s brief running time. It’s a pretty enjoyable time watching a movie.