"Stuber" Movie Review
If you listen closely, you can almost hear the pitch meeting:
“What if a cop had to take an Uber to catch bad guys?"
“But… why would he do that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he’s just gotten Lasik or something.”
“Oooh, go with that!”
“And what if the guy who drove the Uber was named Stu?”
“OK, but wh—Oh, I get it! Yeah!”
And that’s how we get Stuber, which, despite that super-lame premise and an almost crippling dependence on wild coincidences, is a surprisingly tight comedy buoyed by plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Directed by Michael Dowse—who helmed 2011’s wildly underrated Take Me Home Tonight and 2013’s cute rom-com What If—Stuber relies heavily on the rock-solid chemistry shared by nebbish Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) and brick wall cop Vic (Dave Bautista), and both men deliver in spades. There have obviously been plenty of oil-and-water pairings on the big screen over the years, but few can match this one in terms of sheer lunacy.
Nanjiani, who guided his semi-autobiographical The Big Sick to a Best Original Screenplay nomination at the 2018 Oscars, returns with more of his now trademark sandpaper-dry comedy, the perfect foil to Bautista’s thunderous presence. Not only is he a put-upon L.A. Uber driver (vanity plate: FIVESTAR), he also works full-time at a big box sporting goods store, which will naturally figure prominently into the plot when it’s convenient. To further complicate matters, he’s also madly in love with a woman (Betty Gilpin) who has relegated him firmly to the friendzone.
Vic, meanwhile, is still hunting down the criminal responsible for the years-earlier death of his partner, while also soothing a strained relationship with his daughter (Nicole (Natalie Morales), and dealing with his horrible eyesight. It’s an odd couple pairing to be sure, and it sets the stage for a whack-a-doo romp through the streets of Los Angeles.
The screenplay by relative unknown Tripper Clancy is a sterling example of succeeding despite itself, though I imagine a script-to-screen comparison would reveal the funniest bits were the result of Nanjiani and Bautista going off script and riffing off each other. Dowse, meanwhile, keeps things zipping along at a good pace throughout and wrapping it up efficiently in a barely ninety-minute package.
It’s not often you’ll find a fight scene that includes the use of a little kid’s tricycle as a weapon or a bloody shootout set to the gentle refrains of The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe”, but those are only two of the better moments in Stuber. It may not end up the five-star ride that Stu desperately wanted, but it’s a hilarious, super-enjoyable ride nonetheless—and one of the funniest movies of the summer so far.