Directed by: Michael Dowse
Premise: A police detective (Dave Bautista) recruits an Uber driver (Kumail Nanjiani) while he tracks down the drug dealer (Iko Uwais) who murdered his partner.
What Works: The premise of Stuber is something we’ve seen many times before: a grizzled law enforcement officer gets into a series of wacky adventures with a soft civilian. But the filmmakers distinguish Suber from their competition. Buddy action comedies like this succeed or fail based upon the lead actors. Stuber is led by Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani and they make a likable and funny comedy duo. In most buddy comedies one half of the couple provides the laughs and the other is the straight man. But in Stuber both Bautista and Nanjiani get to be funny but in different ways that are consistent with their characters. Bautista does a lot of physical comedy while Nanjiani alternates between being witty and hysterical. Bautista and Nanjiani are willing to make themselves look ridiculous and their lack of self-consciousness makes for some good comedy. This is a consistently funny movie and laughs come at a steady pace. Stuber is also distinguished in the way that it interrogates some of the themes popularly found in action films. This genre is preoccupied with masculinity and Stuber has some pointed ideas about that. As in similar movies, the police detective is a prototypically violent alpha male but he has a soft spot for his daughter. Stuber critiques his violent tendencies but also makes him a terrible father, denying Bautista’s character an excuse for his violent excesses as these movies usually do. At the same time, the driver has his own set of faults. He has a complicated relationship with a female friend (Natalie Morales) and this subplot goes off in some surprising directions.
What Doesn’t: The humor keeps Stuber afloat during its lulls and that’s critical because this story is sluggish. The plot is overly complicated. The film piles on an elaborate series of events in order to fling Bautista and Nanjiani’s characters together and to say the plotting is forced and unlikely is understating it. Once the detective and the driver get together the humor starts and the film picks up. But even from there the story moves in fits and starts. The pacing is erratic and the tone is all over the place. Action and comedy can go together but only if they complement one another as seen in Deadpool or Beverly Hills Cop. The violence and comedy of Stuber are sometimes out of step with each other. The action scenes aren’t particularly well done. They are competent but pedestrian and the film relies on shaky handheld cinematography even when it’s not necessary.
Bottom Line: Stuber is an average action comedy. The set pieces aren’t much but the film is smart about its genre and the comic talents of Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani make Stuber consistently entertaining.
Episode: #760 (August 4, 2019)