Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
The new comedy Stuber follows the fairly typical “odd couple” buddy movie template while putting a 2019 spin on it. UBER and ride share programs play a major role in a plot which places a macho vision-impaired cop into the hands of an in-touch-with-his-feelings driver. The movie pits them against each other like opposing forces that must eventually find a happy medium in order to stop a drug dealer from poisoning the streets.
Dave Bautista plays the cop, Vic, whose failing eyesight has cost him not only the resolution of a major case, but also his partner’s life. He has laser eye surgery to hopefully fix the problem, but on the day of the procedure he receives a tip that the drug dealer he has been investigating has a major deal going down that night. Unable to drive because his eyes have not yet healed, he enlists the aid of Stu the UBER driver, the title character, played by Kumail Nanjiani, to drive him around Los Angeles interrogating those who might know where the deal is going down.
Stu is instantly resistant, but he also needs a 5-star review from Vic in order to keep his ideal rating. And so, in this twist on the format of Michael Mann’s Collateral, Stu keeps driving. The pair find themselves in an interrogation at a male strip joint, a shootout in a veterinarian’s office, and a one-on-one brawl in a sporting goods store.
The movie packs in some entertaining action scenes. Iko Uwais, star of The Raid franchise, is the movie’s main villain and he and Bautista have some brutal brawn versus finesse brawls, the first also involving Bautista’s Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Karen Gillan. But these action scenes never forget that they are in a comedy, blending the violence with plenty of gags, most notably in the sporting goods store knockdown.
The highlight of the comedy, though, is the interaction between the two leads. Nanjiani, especially, is like a one-liner machine. Fans of action movies from the eighties and nineties will appreciate his verbal jabs at Bautista’s similar physique and attitude to the action heroes from those decades; “I’m guessing you want me to drive you around to all the Sarah Connors in town,” is an especially humorous reference.
As funny as certain moments in the movie are, though, Stuber never really establishes a true comedic rhythm. Even at only 93 minutes, there are many scenes that drag on a little too long, possibly due to a heavy dose of improvisation. And for as many gags as there are that do work, there are at least as many that don’t. Some are completely out of character and feel out of place, such as when we learn that Stu, a supposed 5-star UBER driver, cannot make a u-turn.
Bautista and Nanjiani are both entertaining actors and they work well together, but Stuber feels like Vic at the shooting range prior to his surgery, missing the target more times than it hits.
Stuber opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16, the AMC Kent Station 14, the Century Federal Way, and Regal’s Stadium Landing 14 in Renton.