Movies

Review: Stuber

Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista are well worth seeing, but not in this movie.

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Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista are so appealing in Stuber—so personable and droll in their verbal parrying—that you can't help wishing someone would put them in a buddy comedy someday. It wouldn't even have to be a top-shelf buddy comedy—something, for example, that might have caught the attention of Eddie Murphy or Mel Gibson back in the day. No, it could be a middling piece of hackwork and Nanjiani and Bautista would probably keep it afloat. Hell, they keep this movie afloat—well, almost—and it's not even middling hackwork.

Stuber is remarkably bad, even for a genre in which excellence rarely runs rampant. The story has a primordial familiarity. Bautista plays Vic, an LAPD detective obsessed with catching the bigshot drug dealer (Iko Uwais, of The Raid) who shot and killed his partner (a fleeting appearance by Bautista's Guardians of the Galaxy associate Karen Gillan). Six months after that sad event, Vic still hasn't captured this guy, and it looks like he won't be doing so any time soon, because he just had laser eye surgery and then climbed behind the wheel of his car and promptly drove it into a ditch. Undeterred—there are still leads to pursue! —Vic summons an Uber. A driver named Stu (Nanjiani) heeds the call. (Here I think we can agree that combining "Stu" and "Uber" to create a title for this movie is an instance of shameless creative laziness.)

Now we meet Stu. He is of course the polar opposite of Vic. Where Vic is a raging bull and built like a double-wide refrigerator, Stu is mild of manner, reed-like in physique, and frustrated in his Uber job, which consists of ferrying morons around town all day and never getting a coveted five-star rating from any of them. He also has a second gig working at a sporting-goods store (a strained narrative invention). So Stu is ready for change, and he's hoping to open a "spin gym for women" with his whiny sort-of-girlfriend Becca (Betty Gilpin). This pointless subplot has no payoff, and in an uncharitable mood one might suspect that it was shoehorned into the movie solely to pad it out to 93 minutes.

Stu arrives at Vic's pickup site and is confronted by an angry, near-blind muscle mountain who commandeers his car until further notice. He then leads Stu off on a tour of the movie's requisite assortment of kooky characters, with furious gun battles inserted along the way. There's a stop at a gay strip club (where Steve Howey has a funny bit as one of the strippers) followed by a visit to a ghetto drug den, outside of which Stu accidentally shoots one of the dealers. This wounded lowlife then has to be transported for repair to a veterinary hospital that Vic patronizes in such legally shadowy situations. There are also low-impact plot complications provided by Vic's needy daughter (Natalie Morales) and his boss, Captain McHenry (Mira Sorvino). And more gun battles, of course.

The movie fails in areas you might have thought it hard to screw up at this late date in action-flick history. To begin with, the action is incoherent—the uninventive fight choreography lacks detail and thus oomph, and the juddery camerawork keeps you wondering what's going on at all times. Director Michael Dowse also mounts a car chase that consists just about entirely of car-chase clichés. And the script, by Tripper Clancy (whose resume consists of two previous German-language features), is hobbled by a pair of irritating implausibilities. One, why would a cop who can barely see insist on barging around with a gun in search of a suspect who will be, at best, only a blur if he somehow finds him? And two, why would Nanjiani's Uber driver not bail on this rampaging rider at the first opportunity? A similar question will likely occur to any viewers who find themselves trapped in a theatre with this movie.

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  1. A good movie would turn those last two problems into features. Some of the best movies I remember had similar absurdities which just made things better.

  2. is hobbled by a pair of irritating implausibilities

    It’s a movie Realistic Randy!

  3. Maybe it’s an age thing, but I find plot holes and implausibilities in movies increasingly irritating.

    Case in point: A standout scene in the unmitigated disaster Batman v Superman was when the Batmobile

    1. Skidded and slammed into Superman and he just stood there while the vehicle crumpled around him. I can accept that he is invulnerable and wouldn’t be injured, but physics dictate that the momentum would send him sprawling, unless his mass is far greater than the Batmobile’s mass. My girlfriend and other friends said maybe Supe’s mass is extreme, but then I pointed out that, if that were true, Clark Kent would be found out at work when he’d break the elevator or buckle the floor beneath him when he’s at his desk.

      1. My girlfriend and other friends said maybe Supe’s mass is extreme, but then I pointed out that, if that were true, Clark Kent would be found out at work when he’d break the elevator or buckle the floor beneath him when he’s at his desk.

        Your nerdiness is truly astounding.

        1. His mass is immense, and he controls it like his flight.

      2. . . . but physics dictate that the momentum would send him sprawling . . .

        Dude can fly without thrust. In space. He has a reactionless engine.

        Physics was killed in Superman long before you were born.

        1. It’d be cool to see a movie with the original Superman who could only leap over a skyscraper in a single bound.

  4. This is a direct take off of the Dopinder subplot/potential spin off from Deadpool. Not sure why they changed his name to Stu.

    1. Actually, you’re right. Just done by a worse director and with a worse script.

  5. Dave Bautista is a genuinely talented comedic actor.
    The Indian guy is ok in small doses, but mostly irritating. He really doesn’t bring much of anything to the table.
    When I saw this was a movie with him as the lead, it screamed flop.
    The previews lead me to believe the same, no matter how many times they repeat the stupid name

  6. The trailer makes it look like a cross between the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart Central Intelligence, with the hero/taxi-cab interaction from the Deadpool movies.

    And guaranteed to fail in the attempt.

  7. Kumail Nanjiani is not funny and not a good actor. The first movie I saw him in, “The Big Sick” was horrible but somehow got good IMDb ratings… which had to be spammers.

    1. He’s great in Silicon Valley

  8. Yet another film where they show penis and NO vagina. PC liberal Hollyweird and their obsession with male genitals and their fear of female genitals continues. How odd that a male strip club showed fully nude males on camera but in female strip clubs in Hollywood films, they show women topless only. I’ve never seen or been to a topless female strip club but in Hollyweird, they are everywhere. What gives?

    1. “Showgirls” shows it all.

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