Film Review - Stuber

This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Dave Bautista, left, and Kumail Nanjiani in a scene from “Stuber.”

Make no mistake, “Stuber” is stupid.

It appears that the filmmakers know this, embracing the stupidity and never once trying to hide it. “Stuber,” directed by Michael Dowse (“Goon”), is also witty at times. However, the ethnic, time-sensitive jokes throughout the film likely won’t be as humorous by the time this film hits DVD.

The unlikely pairing of “Guardians of the Galaxy” brute Dave Bautista and Oscar-nominated writer and actor Kumail Nanjiani is equal parts inspired and ludicrous. Their comic duality is very similar to Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller (“Meet the Parents”) or Kevin Hart and Ice Cube (“Ride Along”).

Uber is written into the script, and the title, in a way that makes it the butt of all the jokes, while advertising for the ride-hauling company at the same time.

Thankfully the film is fast-moving and short, so the audience really doesn’t have time to question the premise of the plot, which would spoil the good time “Stuber” is trying to force you to have.

After a lifetime of chasing the drug dealer responsible for the death of his partner, LAPD detective Vic Manning (Bautista) has Lasik eye surgery the very day Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais) reemerges.

Barely able to function until his vision is restored, the impatient and rude detective calls an Uber to track Teijo before he disappears again. Stu (Nanjiani) is the unwitting Uber driver who is forced to deal with Vic’s gruff and hostile behavior.

“You give people Glocks instead of love,” the pacifist Stu shouts at one point after being forced to drive this half-crazed cop around the city from one crime scene to another. Truth is, Stu is seeking another five-star rating as a driver, but mostly he just fears for his life.

When Vic first sets foot into Stu’s immaculately clean electric Nissan Leaf, wearing protective eye gear from the Lasik surgery, Stu asks if he will be driving him to meet Sarah Connors. It’s funny because Stu is making a joke about Vic’s eyewear, but if you don’t know the pop culture reference to Sarah Connors (the protagonist in the Terminator films) or get the association that’s being made between Bautista and Schwarzenegger, then the joke and much of the writing in “Stuber” won’t work for you.

“Stuber,” like most mainstream movies these days expect the audience to be familiar with other movies so these cultural references will work.

Tripper Clancy’s script is 90 minutes of poking fun at Uber ride-hauling, our dependency on cell phone apps and the naiveté of millennials. Again, if you are unfamiliar with Uber, and the obsession drivers have with maintaining a high score because their business depends on it, much of this film won’t land for you.

Nanjiani is a good actor, he proved that with a more dramatic role in “The Big Sick.” His comic wit, clear improvisation in this role and his dry sarcasm are a great blend of talent that he wields seemingly effortlessly. If The Oscars ever go back to having a host, he would be a perfect choice.

“Stuber” is only as smart as its jokes and when we stop to think for a minute, why Vic hasn’t called for backup instead of kidnapping an Uber driver to take down the state’s worst criminal, the entire structure falls apart.

“Stuber” is making fun of everything, including itself, there are race jokes as well as unsavory gay jokes. Yet the action part of the movie might be the biggest joke of all.

“Stuber” is a discardable summer movie, destined to be the “oh I forgot about that one” movie.

Final Thought – “Stuber” is as funny as the audiences cultural reference IQ and as dumb as the genre plot holes it falls into.

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. Visit texasartfilm.com.

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