Any film has the potential to possess all the right ingredients for success, but just because the ingredients may be present doesn’t mean the final product will be great. Hence while a film like Stuber does indeed contain such keys to success like a likable duo, exciting action pieces and moments of light humor, these ingredients have not melded well to fashion a good movie.
Screenwriter Tripper Clancy has brought to the screen a by the numbers, cliche-filled cop and fish-out-of-water story that director Michael Dowse has done nothing to make even remotely original; the ingredients from great action comedies (Spy, Shanghai Noon, Beverly Hills Cop, for instance) are there, but its clear what to do them was never properly learned. Simply throwing eggs and flour in a bowl will not result in a cake…
With Stuber, putting together the odd pairing of Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani against a backdrop of police chases, a dangerous drug underworld, and awkward humor may seem like something worthwhile but has ultimately not resulted in a memorable action buddy movie.
Nanjiani plays Stu, a Los Angeles Uber driver perennially on the quest to get a five-star rating; Bautista is Vic, an LAPD detective on the trail of homicidal drug trafficker Teijo who murdered his partner. On the day he receives laser eye surgery (the only real original plot device of the entire film), Vic gets a hot tip on Teijo’s whereabouts and must rely on Stu’s Uber services to bring the criminal to justice.
What ensues are the typical tropes used in this genre, but with very little effectiveness. These two polar opposites begin their relationship on the most uneasy terms but then grow to be good friends. Stu learns to be more assertive and develop stronger self-esteem, while Vic becomes more sensitive and discovers its ok to ask for help. In between their journey of “self-discovery”, there are shootouts. explosions double-cross and hit or miss jokes. Yet despite all this, we have seen them many times before and frequently better presented.
The humor is inconsistent (sometimes eliciting a good laugh, while other times just falling flat), and the action pieces are unfortunately par for the course. Nothing here is particularly inventive with plenty of recycled material. And so, in the end, we have what amounts to a hackneyed attempt at a good summer action-comedy, perhaps only suitable to watch when nothing else is available to rent or when aboard an airplane.
Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista warrant the only stars for this film, showcasing pleasant chemistry and hints of what could have been so much greater. There are certainly some good funny interactions between the two, but it is never anything really hysterical and is overshadowed by the too frequent return to the generic chase and shoot out scenes. If more time had been spent on developing the characters, there may have been a reason to be a little more invested in the story, but it stands as just another run of the mill odd couple buddy movie, with only sprinkles of original content.
And so despite its leads, Stuber is stunted almost right from the beginning. It builds itself upon the sort of classic building blocks for this type of movie but ends up doing nothing with them that hasn’t been done better before. Simply taking things that have worked in other films, putting them in your film and hoping for the best just won’t cut it. Stu and his Uber have longed for that five-star rating, but with Stuber finds himself a long way from a perfect score.