Director: Michael Dowse
Release Date: July 12, 2019
Dave Bautista, the WWE wrestler turned blue alien in Guardians of the Galaxy, teams up with comedian Kumail Nanjiani in a buddy cop action comedy that takes place in an Uber.
The formula is simple: You have two unlikely characters forced into a situation where they both learn an important lesson about the other while fighting crime and providing laughs. We’ve seen Kevin Hart do this countless times with The Rock and Ice Cube. In this case, Bautista assumes the role as the typical weightlifting steak-eating man’s man and Najinani is the softer, more in touch with his feelings character.
Bautista gets his first big-time leading role in which we can actually see his face, as he plays a cop named Vic who has dedicated his life to hunting down the killer of his partner. After years of tirelessly working the case he finally gets a big break, which just so happens to be right after he gets lasik eye surgery. Unable to drive, he is forced to call an Uber. That’s where Kumail Najinani comes in. Najinani plays Stu, a soft-spoken but incredibly sassy Uber driver. Like most Uber drivers, Stu needs the extra cash and he fears being let go by the company due to low rider ratings. While he doesn’t exactly have Tom Cruise holding a gun to his head, he is fearful that the enraged cop will give him a one-star rating if he doesn’t drive him around on this manhunt across LA.
The theme of the film is largely about what it is to be a “real man.” We’re given two extreme cases: One, a former WWE superstar who is the classic old-school example of masculinity; the other, a much more sensitive example. Both our leads are forced to take lessons from each other, showing us there’s no one single way to be a man. This might seem like a deep text from a buddy cop comedy but it’s not without it’s over-the-top set pieces. The jokes flow throughout, taking stabs at the stereotypes while the duo delivers some pretty brutal punishment to bad guys that we aren’t used to seeing in this type of film.
Sadly, Stuber provides us with nothing worth remembering. Sure it’s 2019 wokness between the two leads is a more updated version than Chris Rock making some suspect jokes at Jackie Chan’s expense, but everything else feels half-baked. The action, brutal and R-rated as it is, is lazy, especially when most of us saw John Wick and The Avengers provide some of the most groundbreaking action set pieces of the last decade just over a month ago. In comparison it seems like they didn’t even try. The villain doesn’t get nearly enough screen time for us to care about catching him, the subplots fall short of being meaningful and, other than a few decent laughs, the jokes are stale. The highlight is the chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani, but it’s not enough to make Stuber anything special.
Stuber was produced by 20th Century Fox, which was acquired by Disney in a merger earlier this year. Being one of the first R-rated action comedies distributed by Disney, Suber had a lot riding on it for the future of this genre in this studio. It brought in just $8 million in its opening weekend. With disappointing box office numbers, it would appear that movies like Stuber are headed straight to your favorite streaming service next to the latest Adam Sandler vacation who-done-it film.