Stuber, 2019, ¾ star

Stuber  stumbles

Action-comedy is an unpleasant ride

Dave Bautista, left, and Kumail Nanjiani star in Stuber. (image copyright Walt Disney Studios / 20th Century Fox)

From The Orlando Weekly, July 10, 2019

Stuber’s title is a portmanteau of Uber and the film’s main character, Stu. The movie’s creators apparently thought it a clever combo, so let me also don my Lewis Carroll hat and invent a word for this action-comedy: stubid.

Mild-mannered Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) works at a sporting-goods store by day and drives an Uber in the evening. His world revolves around avoiding emotional abuse from his boss (Jimmy Tatro) and getting closer to his crush, Becca (Betty Gilpin), with whom he hopes to open a small business. Those priorities are upended when a policeman, Vic (Dave Bautista), hires his Uber to chase a violent fugitive who killed his former partner (Karen Gillan) six months earlier. The unlikely use of an Uber (instead of a cop car) is explained, weakly, by the fact that Vic’s boss (Mira Sorvino) has taken him off the case and Vic is unable to drive himself because he just underwent LASIK surgery. Confused already? Just wait.

Further subplots abound, including Vic pledging to attend the art-show opening of his daughter (Natalie Morales) and Stu promising to console Becca, who has just broken up with her boyfriend and is requesting sexual comfort from Stu (because that happens in real life). But the overstuffing doesn’t stop at the plot, as writer Tripper Clancy (Hot Dog) and director Michael Dowse (Fubar) also pack in multiple genres: comedy, action and the embarrassingly sandwiched-in drama. And how do we know when the film switches from farce to pathos? The cloying score tells us, of course. It’s all out of Screenwriting 101, or that popular film-writing manual, Save the Cat! But this cat has mange.

Nanjiani is talented, as he showed in The Big Sick, but he deserves better writing and a director with a smarter sensibility and more discipline. And though Bautista has an undeniable screen presence, which he demonstrated as Drax the Destroyer in Marvel movies, his acting belongs not with legitimate filmmaking but with World Wrestling Entertainment, where he performed before transitioning to cinema. Morales (Parks and Recreation) does some nice work, but Sorvino and Gillan (Amy Pond in Doctor Who) are embarrassingly wasted. Still, no single element is as misused as the Hollies classic “The Air That I Breathe,” which, in a moment of musical sacrilege, is played over a bloody shootout. “If I could make a wish, I think I’d pass” on this film.

Will some people enjoy Stuber? Certainly. Take the dude sitting next to me at the screening. Take him, please. No, seriously, he loved it. For an hour and a half, he chortled, clapped his hands, shoveled popcorn in his pie hole and even stomped his feet, as if he were at one of Bautista’s wrestling matches. He enjoyed elements I couldn’t: the 1980s buddy-cop vibe, exhausting freneticism, unpleasantly active camerawork, car crashes, stunts, and haphazard juxtaposition of graphic violence and mirth in the vein of Deadpool. So I begrudgingly wish him happy feasting on this sloppy smorgasbord of sophomoric cinema. I’d prefer to starve.

“I didn’t think you were gonna give me five stars,” Stu tells Vic, referencing his Uber rating. In movie-review terms, Stu, you couldn’t be more correct. How does one star sound?

© 2019 Orlando Weekly / MeierMovies, LLC