Movie Review: “Stuber” – Bad Commute

Written by Jeremiah Greville July 24, 2019

Stuber

Sometimes things just happen, and you move on. You eat something bad for lunch on a Tuesday, and by the following Monday you’ve forgotten all about it. The only way the meal has a chance of being remembered is if something extraordinary were to happen while you ate it. So unless you plan on meeting the love of your life — or being shot — during the run-time of Stuber, you’ll most likely forget it too. It’s a strange, confusing, confounding mess of a thing that offers occasional thrills and the rare odd laugh, and an imperceptible sense that ninety-three minutes have gone by without explanation. “Why did this exist?”, you’ll ask. “What was the point?” And then you’re back where you began: sometimes things just happen. Then you move on.

Stuber stars Kumail Nanjiani as Stu, an Uber driver whose day takes a turn for the worse when he picks up renegade cop, Vic (Dave Bautista). Vic is on the trail of a dangerous criminal, but is recovering from laser eye surgery that’s left him partially blind, so he’s forced to enlist Stu as his eyes in an ever-escalating series of events. Stuber also stars Betty Gilpin and Natalie Morales. Action-treasure Iko Uwais is absolutely wasted as the villainous gangster Tedjo. Karen Gillan appears long enough for you to say, “Hey, there’s Karen Gillan!” and the whole thing is written by a guy named Tripper. This movie probably shouldn’t exist, but does. It was directed, I guess, by Michael Dowse, who has fallen far from the lofty heights of Fubar and Goon.

“Not in this economy.”

It’s honestly difficult to remember specific details about Stuber, and I even took notes! Despite the fact that I saw it only days ago, reviewing it feels a bit like summoning a half-remembered dream from weeks prior. Subsequently, this review will be my only reminder of the film’s existence in a few months, once I’ve properly erased it from my mind. Actually, that’s not entirely fair, because the point I’m trying to make here is that Stuber is so bland that it does the work of erasing for you. This is a film with the good decency to delete itself from your memory, so you won’t have to drink the pain away or bash your head against something hard. Ah, and there I am not being fair again. I’m so bothered by Stuber — and most movies like it — not because it’s awful, but because it could have been great and isn’t. Ask any critic: thoroughly mediocre is always a thousand times more painful than awful.

stuber

There’s just so much to dissect about what doesn’t work with this film. Nanjiani and Bautista both boast proven comedy chops, but they don’t ever really click on screen together. Their lack of chemistry (a nebulous term at the best of times) seems to be an intentional part of the design. Yet even movies about mismatched partners need leads that work well together, and instead of having each others’ backs, Nanjiani and Bautista seem to be in each others’ way. Nanjiani’s ever-present gentle schtick never transcends the moment. Rather each joke is just…there…on screen….doing nothing. And Bautista fares even worse. While he’s never shown a particularly wide acting range, he nonetheless is effective when allowed to remain a stoic and soft-spoken force of nature. He does what he does well when he has the chance, but director Dowse doesn’t seem to know how to use him. Bautista is a hammer — find things for him to nail, don’t ask if he comes with wi-fi.

“I see potential in you, Stu.”

Then there’s the mismatched tone. I’m honestly not sure what kind of movie Stuber was originally intended to be. First of all, it’s rated R, and while there is violence and coarse language, none of it adds to the proceedings at all. I feel strange advocating for a softer rating, but Stuber might actually have fared better under PG-13. The violence is over-the-top and extreme at times, but never competently directed enough to make up for the weak humour. The shakey-cam in the hand-to-hand fight scenes is almost as bad as some of the later Taken films, and undermines anything Iko Uwais brings to the table. I get depressed just thinking about it. We could have had a trained martial arts actor against a former professional wrestler, but instead we got close approximation of what a migraine feels like on film.

stuber

But if Stuber was funny, then at least that would be something. Nobody remembers the Jump Street films for their action chops. And yet, it really isn’t. There are some fun moments, and some gags land better than others, but nothing really pops. The movie is ostensibly about these two men growing to respect and even like each other by the end, but the journey there isn’t memorable. I’m not sure where the problem really lies, since the leads, the tone, the story, the jokes, and the direction all seem to be half-baked or pulling in different directions. I will say that there was a fun bit about a male stripper (Steve Howey) in the first half of the film, but that’s pretty much it. The lessons, the message, the payoff, the jokes…none of them really take this one home.

‘Stuber’! Because you drive an Uber! That’s a great pun.”

Stuber won’t offend most people. It’s the perfect kind of movie to catch on a Saturday afternoon on basic cable, or in the coming apocalypse on whatever streaming service that happens to accidentally own the rights to it at the time. But I wouldn’t recommend spending money to see it in theatres, unless your main interest is in supporting it financially. It’s mediocre, and at this point I wish it was actually bad just so I had something more to say. But I’m nearing the end of this review, and like a night of heavy drinking the memory will eventually fade, leaving only regret. Although heavy drinking holds the promise of liver damage and sexually transmitted sadness, so that may be a more interesting option.

No judgement here! You do you, sport.

My Rating: 5/10

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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