Uber Finally Gets It’s Own Movie With Dave Bautista & Kumail Nanjiani Along For The Ride In “Stuber”. It Tries To Pay Homage To The 80’s Buddy Cop Comedies, Just Not The Good Ones. It Starts Off Great & Wears Itself Out By Being Too Repetitive, Not Funny Enough & Cliché Filled.
Stop me if you heard this one before? You got two strangers, one of the guys is a big, well-armed, intimidating presence with old-school values of pound him around then ask questions later. He isn’t one to mess around. While the other guy is much smaller, is funnier (in a comic relief kind of way) and is kind of goofy. He lives to drive the other guy nuts, even if circumstances force them to partner up and take on some bad people.
Hollywood has relied on variations of this formula for decades, everything from “48 Hrs.” to “Lethal Weapon” to “Midnight Run” to “Rush Hour” to “Men in Black” and so many more. Just add the newest addition “Stuber”, which is by no means a classic of the genre like the ones listed above.
As “Stuber” opened I got excited, opening with a great fight and chase scene. Then it got me in light giggles, then I went blank, giggled some more, went blank, giggled some more, had one big laugh and ended the movie in a blank state. This is how up and down “Stuber” gets for it’s much too long 1 hour and 33 minute running time.
“Stuber” feels like a throwback to a time in the 80’s/90’s when these random buddy comedies weren’t just the norm but arguably the most popular genre around. It feels good to go back to that, but if we are going to pay homage to the great buddy comedies it should at least live up to the hype.
The action-comedy comes from the director of the underrated “Take Me Home Tonight”. Michael Dowse establishes a bone-cracking tone within the fantastic opening scene. A drug raid gone wrong that leads to a violent shoot-out and a breakneck chase sequence reminiscent of anything in “Lethal Weapon”. The main story takes place six months after that fateful raid, with Bautista’s Vic, a grizzled, brooding and closed-off LAPD detective, obsessed with tracking down the notorious Teijo (Iko Uwais, the great Indonesian martial artist/actor from “The Raid” and “Mile 22”), who killed his partner and is still at large.
Vic is not exactly having a good day. In the typical thoughtless fashion, he has scheduled a much-needed Lasik surgery on the same day his sculptor daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales) has her first big art gallery opening. To complicate matters: while Vic is fumbling about the gallery, unable to see from the surgery, he gets a call from his new partner (Amin Joseph) that could lead him straight to Teijo.
As Vic can’t see well enough to drive, he summons an Uber, who is the mild-mannered, sporting goods store clerk who drives an electric Prius named Stu (Nanjiani), aka Stuber because his name his Stu and he drives an Uber, get it? Hardy har-har.
Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista are a likeable pair, although they don’t compare to the pairings of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover or Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. While “Stuber” has the makings of a great action comedy, the duo deserves better than “Stuber”. It’s a strained action-comedy with a clever but recycled premise, you remember Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah’s entertaining action comedy “Taxi” or Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx’s “Collateral”. Michael Mann’s sleek Los Angeles thriller in which a contract killer forces a cab driver to chauffeur him between assignments.
“Stuber” is a maddeningly uninspired execution. Rather than giving us a sharper script or ensuing us with hilarity, the audience is instead tortured with pedestrian observations about masculinity and buddy-cop flicks. Neither hysterical nor thrilling enough, “Stuber” hits the red light.
While director Michael Dowse and screenwriter Tripper Clancy stretch it’s hour and half running time to it’s limit, there aren’t enough belly laughs to go around. There are a few big laughs but the biggest laugh comes in a fight scene between Stu and Vic inside a sporting goods store is hilarious, brutal, absurd, and unfortunately a bit too long.
Bautista shows a real flair for slapstick comedy, with lots of mileage gotten out of the Mr. Magoo-like scenario, made funnier by the fact that he’s a 300 pound, 6’6 behemoth. Bautista’s always been game to self-parody, and this probably the first star vehicle for him that really lets him cut loose and show what he’s made of.
Nanjiani brings his cynical worldview to the role of Stu, a decent guy who works two jobs and is trying his best to emerge from the “friend zone” he’s been placed in by Becca (“Glow’s” Betty Gilpin), his longtime pal and future business associate. As Bautista takes over Stu’s leased vehicle, Stu becomes the terrified passenger in the weirdest, most dangerous ride of his life.
Stu’s need for that 5-star rating is a big part of the movie’s humor. He’s so desperate for it that he does pretty much everything Vic asks just to earn it, up to and including holding a suspect at gunpoint. Yeah, the premise is a bit dicey when you look into the details, but this is a film that embraces its ridiculous qualities. It’s hard to take Stu at face value, which is fine because little about “Stuber” makes sense in reality. That’s part of the fun, which is why one of the films big laughs is watching a blind Bautista drive his car into every road obstacle before crashing into a ditch, that is so damned hilarious.
Iko Uwais is a thoroughly boring baddie, who gets way too little screen time. He also serves as the choreographer of the films fight scenes which is probably why the action in “Stuber” is so legit. Michael Dowse kicks up the carnage beyond what you’d expect in a mainstream comedy. Some of the action set pieces are pretty nifty, including an ultra-violent shoot-out in a vet’s office, scored to The Hollies’s “The Air That I Breathe”.
Genre films like “Stuber” require sharp writing and pitch-perfect performances, both of which it badly lacks. It’s lively at times, but never sure of itself, while screenwriter Tripper Clancy always resorts to formula when he’s backed into a corner. “Stuber” has the parts and makings of being something really great. It’s ultimately a disappointing Uber ride, I say cancel this Uber ride & give it a mediocre star rating as it could use some improvements.
GRADE: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5)