Stuber | Michael Dowse | July 12, 2019
When it comes to the modern gig economy, I can think of nary a film that delves into, say, the day-to-day life of a DoorDasher, a PostMate, or an Uber/Lyft driver … until Stuber, that is.
Stuber follows sporting goods store employee and part-time Uber driver Stu (The Big Sick & MIB: International‘s Kumail Nanjiani in another starring role) and aging-out LA cop Vic (Guardians Vol. 1 & Vol 2, SPECTRE & Blade Runner 2049‘s Dave Bautista). Their paths cross when Vic, in need of a ride post-Lasik, is put back on the trail of Teijo (The Raid‘s Iko Uwais), the drug dealer who killed his partner Sara Morris (Karen Gillan) 6 months prior. So Vic happens to hail Stu’s Uber, and Stu is roped into a wild 12+ hour journey through LA, all while trying to stay above 4 stars and make it to his spin gym business partner and longtime crush Becca (Glow & American Gods‘ Betty Gilpin).
Stuber tries to work as an oddly paired buddy cop comedy and a slight rom-com, and it somewhat succeeds at that. Stu and Vic learn some things about one another and grow along the way – like getting in touch with their emotions (more so Vic) and being straightforward (more so Stu). They come across a few genre tropes here and there which, given some casting and plot elements, is a mite predictable in hindsight and doesn’t work as well as, say, the loving send-up that is Hot Fuzz. The straight/mild-mannered man and relentless/grizzled cop pairing is somewhat effective, but Tripper Clancy’s script could have handled some of the running gags related to masculinity and emotions a little better. As for the rom-com angle, there’s the slight self-aware/cringe factor of Stu and Becca’s will-they-won’t-they-oh-they-drunkenly-did-one-time relationship. Maybe the two things that add some outside humor to this situation are Rich (Jimmy Tatro), Stu’s sporting goods store manager, and Felix (Steve Howey), a male stripper who gives Stu some relationship advice.
Action-wise, Stuber is a little messy. There are brief moments of clarity in the fight scenes, interspersed among fleeting gratuitous violence, some tight shaky shots, quick cuts, and CG-aided slapstick-y hits. While it’s possible to piece what happens together, how the scenes are shot could lead to some confusion. And there are a few ridiculous stunts – some are the CG-aided moments – that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for. Someone jumps several floors to a hotel lobby (in a trick one-take)? They’d be dead … but they’re somehow okay. Someone is hit by various pieces of sporting equipment? Surprisingly, they have no broken bones. You get my drift?
Stuber, like many recent comedies (and action-comedies) I’ve seen, doesn’t do much new for the genre but has some enjoyable moments, thanks mostly to the pairing of the lead actors. However, it does fall a little flat when it comes to fully defining the female supporting cast – namely Gilpin, Mira Sorvino, and Natalie Morales. Given the talent of these actresses, I’d expect more than the script (and finished product) offered. There are always better films and shows of theirs to seek out. Stuber, meanwhile, is a good summer vehicle for Nanjiani and Bautistia to demonstrate some of their action-comedy chops.