Directed by Michael Dowse, this action-comedy from 20th Century Fox stars Davie Bautista and Kumasi Nanjiani. Also starring are Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino and Karen Gillan.
Stuber is in cinemas across the UK now.
When a mild-mannered Uber driver named Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) picks up a passenger (Dave Bautista) who turns out to be a cop hot on the trail of a brutal killer, he’s thrust into a harrowing ordeal where he desperately tries to hold onto his wits, his life and his five-star rating.
So I have to admit I’m not very good at watching comedies. In fact I can’t remember the last one that I saw at the cinema. I’m pretty sure it was Game Night and before that? Bad Neighbours? I think.
It’s not that I don’t like comedies I just don’t go out of my way to see them because I’m already going out to my way to see everything else. So when the opportunity came up to see Stuber I jumped at the chance.
Dave Bautista has shown off some great comedy skills during his handful of appearances as Drax. But I was dubious as to whether he could headline a movie at all, let alone one which relies on his comedic timing.
That’s where Stuber really surprised me. It’s comedy elements are the most well realised in the movie. Comedy beats are well spread out throughout the narrative and they vary from physical comedy, to straight joking. In that respect Stuber is like Bautista’s new showreel.
Of course fans will already know that Kuwait Nanjiani has comedy at his very core. His reactions to the situations Vic gets him in to cause some of the biggest laughs in the script. But there are still surprises to be found.
First of all the chemistry between Nanjiani and Bautista is excellent. As is often the case the buddy cop genre begins to feel slightly more like a rom-com when things get really silly.
The scene in the veterinarians as Vic and Stu are locked in a shootout with a bunch of goons had me falling off my seat. In situations like this, where Bautista is perhaps most comfortable, he is able to give legitimacy to the violence whilst Nanjiani adds similar credence to the comedic moments.
Supporting cast members all play their parts well and each has a small moment to shine. Ultimately they are all only there to provide more material to the leads though. With Nanjiani the sub-plot featuring Betty Gilpin as Becca is his driving force, we only see them together on screen briefly and so his drawn out moments of lamenting on his unrequited love are a little difficult to take. But without that we wouldn’t have the amazing seen in the back room of the strip club.
Likewise for Bautista it’s his character’s daughter, Nicole (Natalie Morales) who is his anchor and his reason for being where he is by the end of the movie. Nicole is the most fully realised character of the two secondary female roles. Over the course of the movie we learn more about her and her relationship with Vic in a way which feels more natural and human. Whereas with Becca it’s nothing more than Stu chasing a hookup which means more to him than it does to her.
What about the villain? I hear you cry. Well Iko Uwais plays the big bad Oka with relative ease. He is really only in a handful of scenes but shows on some great stunts and action beats when he does appear.
But again, as with these buddy-cop comedies the villain will always be second to the leads and their interplay.
Where Stuber tends to fall apart is in trying to take itself seriously in its action. Hats off to Michael Dowes and the creative team for trying to craft an action-comedy that is equal parts of both. But rarely do movies succeed in being equally as funny as they are edgy.
In isolation the action beats of Stuber would makes for a generic, but entertaining action piece. Likewise the comedy alone would build a generic summer comedy movie. Together they do create something more unique but with more work I feel like they could have created something truly original.
The storyline featuring the character of Iko is generic and predictable in a way that comedy movies often are. Where the creative team could have improved this would have been in crafting a narrative which didn’t rely on genre tropes in order to gain its laughs or legitimise its action. In playing out the dead partner, bent cop stereotypes Stuber shortchanges itself which is a shame.
In much the same vein pinning much of the comedy on an unrequited love in the midst of a gang takedown feels generic and at odds with the overall attempt to meld the two genres.
Stuber is the kind of easy comedy that makes for a great cinema experience. It’s fun, it’s kinda crass and it’s got some ridiculous action sequences. It’s not perfect but what movie is?