When we lined up at a neighborhood AMC Theatres (you view AMC ticket prices here) to watch Stuber, we have relatively high expectations about it. The film stars Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista, after all, and with these two rising stars’ track record, our expectations were well-justified. We considered Nanjiani’s dry humor and Bautista’s adorable factor, both of whom proved it in the Big Sick and Guardians of the Galaxy, when setting our expectations.
But we were somewhat disappointed by the movie’s lukewarm quality combined with the absence of fresh material! Fortunately, Nanjiani and Bautista turned in respectable performances, as well as displayed good chemistry onscreen, which saved Stuber from sinking like the Titanic.
Nearly Sank by the Plot
Let’s face it. We have seen our fair share of the plot in Stuber, and we daresay that it’s among the most used plots in Hollywood. Michael Dowse, its director, and Tripper Clancy, its writer, may have had noble intentions for the movie – we expect every director and writer to be so, obviously – but they failed.
Here’s why: They have a generic plot involving a tough cop and a fish-out-of-water Uber driver working together to solve a crime. Both are thrust together in a situation that neither of them wants to be involved in albeit for different reasons. But they somehow find a way to make it work and voila!
Does it sound familiar? Well, of course, it does! Even the characterizations of the main characters are cliché – too cliché for our liking, if you ask us.
Vic (Bautista) is a tough cop who fits into nearly every stereotype we’ve seen onscreen so there are no surprises there. He is obsessed with his job to the exclusion of everything else including his family; wary of technology because tough cops use their brains and brawn; and a macho man who neglects his adult daughter. He’s a widower, too, if you can imagine that.
Stu (Nanjiani) is an Uber driver – thus, the title is Stuber, an amalgam of his name and occupation – who also has another job as a salesman in a sporting goods store. He’s unprepossessing, uncomfortable in the spotlight, and averse to anything risky, which are characteristics that we’ve seen in other sidekick characters we’ve seen in past movies.
But just to add layer to Stu’s character – but not by much – he’s also pouring nearly everything he earns into a business venture with Becca, his best friend with whom he’s secretly in love but he’s being used as a doormat. Yes, we know that it’s a tired scenario but there it is.
Vic and Stu cross paths because Vic’s daughter forces him to book an Uber ride so that he can come to her art opening later in the evening. Vic may be a tough cop but since he recently had Lasik surgery, he can’t drive and this is where Stu comes in. Their adventures begin when Vic hijacks Stu’s car to go after a drug runner who killed his partner.
Yes, there are a few funny moments but these aren’t so funny as to actually keep the movie from sinking. There are a few Mr Magoo-inspired gags but these aren’t as fresh as you would expect, especially as Nanjiani is in the movie. Perhaps Nanjiani, who co-wrote the funny and poignant Big Sick should have lent a hand in writing the scenes and these could have become funnier and better.
The bottom line: If you’re expecting a funny movie because Nanjiani is there, we suggest dialing down your expectations.
Saved by the Actors
As we previously said, the main actors saved Stuber from completely falling flat on its face. Nanjiani is widely acknowledged as a near-genius when it comes to dry humor – watch the Big Sick and you will get what we mean – and he’s a joy to watch even when the sound is set to mute; we actually highly recommend doing so because Nanjiani has a knack for making people laugh with his delivery.
Bautista isn’t your usual wrestler-turned-actor either, and he may well be following the hugely successful career of Dwayne Johnson. He surprised us with his great performance as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy series and he surprises us yet again here in Stuber. He’s apparently developing layers to his acting performances and it’s always a good thing for actors who may or may not be known for their bulky physique.
Nanjiani and Bautista also portray well their characters, especially in their progression from strangers to friends. While they have significantly different body types, they translate well onscreen and there are moments when it’s funny, too.
But we still wish that Stuber didn’t have to be so generic in its plot! There are so many better directions that the movie could have taken but failed to do. Perhaps, next time we will see Nanjiani and Bautista in a better vehicle for their talents.