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« Happy 91st to Nancy Olson, the last surviving cast member of "Sunset Blvd." | Main | "True Lies" at 25 »
Saturday
Jul132019

Review: Stuber

by Dancin' Dan

Stu is a nice guy. Far too much of a nice guy, in fact. After he clocks out from his job working a big-box sports store, he cleans his car and clocks in to Uber, enduring all the assholes and drunks that use the car service in and around Los Angeles. He does this to get the money to help his best friend Becca open an all-women spin center, because he's also hopelessly in love with her. So after a rash of particularly bad (and mostly unfair) Uber reviews puts his precious star rating in jeopardy, and taciturn cop Vic Manning gets in his car, Stu is willing to do just about anything to make sure he gets a five-star rating. The problem is, Vic is reeling from the death of his partner, has just gotten a lead on his killer, and just had Lasik eye surgery. He can't see, and needs someone to drive him. Let the sparks - and laughs - fly.

Yes, the plot of Stuber is pretty boilerplate buddy comedy stuff. But it gains a lot from its casting...

Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani each fit their part perfectly, and they have terrific chemistry with each other. That's the biggest, most important hurdle any buddy comedy has to clear, and Stuber clears it with ease. It's pretty much everything else that proves to be a problem.

While the film is funny - even the obvious jokes are delivered with enough flair to elicit chuckles instead of groans - the action is not great. Casting Iko Uwais, Indonesian martial arts star of The Raid and its sequel, as the villain Tedjo was a great decision; he's small and wiry but fast and vicious, which makes him a perfect foil for the brute force of Bautista in fight scenes. But the film squanders his talent in action sequences that are shot and cut all to hell, and bordering on incoherent. Stuber also doesn't do right by its fantastic actresses: Bautista's Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Karen Gillan sparks, but is quite brutally dispensed with in the film's opening sequence; GLOW's Betty Gilpin is stuck in a completely thankless "unrequited love interest" role; and neither Natalie Morales nor Oscar winner Mira Sorvino are given anything to do.

You know going in to a movie like this pretty much what's going to happen: Two people who are so different that they hate each other on sight are forced to spend time together, succeed at something neither could have done alone, and teach each other something along the way, eventually becoming something like friends. Stuber does not offer any twist to this formula, although it does make a valiant attempt to grapple with the toxic masculinity that is usually at the heart of buddy cop films. Usually in these scenarios, the less macho one learns to be more like the more macho one, and the more macho one learns to be a bit more humble. These movies generally fawn all over machismo, making the less macho one the butt of most of the jokes and always making it clear who is the MAN. To its credit, Tripper Clancy's script for Stuber does its level best to be more even-handed, and to actually grapple with the question of what makes a man. It's a potent question in 2019, and the fact that the film engages with it as much as it does is surprising. And again, the casting really helps: You can't get much more of an imposing presence than Bautista, and Nanjiani has just the right combination of snark and desperation to his niceness to make Stu funny but never the butt of the joke.

So Stuber clears the biggest hurdle it had to jump, stumbles into several others, and sets up an extra one for itself that it also clears. It's the type of film you'll enjoy just enough while watching and then immediately forget about until you stumble across it on some streaming servicewhere you'll say "Oh yeah, this movie was funny!" and leave it on while you fold your laundry. It's about as good as we can hope for from a big studio comedy these days. If it falls down on multiple fronts, at least the leads are enjoyable and bring the jokes home.

Grade: B-

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Reader Comments (4)

Saw it yesterday. Was expecting a train wreck but was pleasantly surprised. The chemistry between the leads is what makes this movie. Regrettably Mira Sorvino is not given anything of substance even though plot wise she has an important character. Nonetheless, an enjoyable movie n

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

Off topic but will there be a Yes No Maybe So for Judy's full trailer?

July 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEoghan McQ

My only interest is if Bautista goes Shirtless! in this. Anyone know or remember?

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterForever1267

Edward - Oh, I know The Young Ahmed doesn't try to examine Ahmed's mindset. That's the problem with the movie. If you take away any attempt to look into his psyche, you're left with a surface level drama-- "There's this kid and he does this crazy thing, then this crazier thing, then this unbelievable thing, then that one, then two more. The end." You say the media depicts these guys as monsters, but the only way this film avoids that same characterization was by casting someone who looks so young and harmless. If he had looked like an actual teenager, maybe with a beard, he might have looked more threatening and then it would be more obvious how the script treats him like a crazed maniac. Download granny 2.0

July 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward

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