In recent years audiences have been treated to modern classics such as Edgar Wright‘s Hot Fuzz, Shane Black‘s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Paul Feig’s The Heat and lastly Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 21 Jump Street reboot — and its equally hilarious sequel 22 Jump Street.
Stuber is the latest effort by Hollywood to add to that list with a contemporary take that offers the unlikely pairing of a classic hard-boiled detective and a meek Uber driver as they’re thrown together for hilarious hijinks.
The film begins with Detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) and his partner Sara Morris (Karen Gillan) on a case to track down the infamous heroin dealer Teijo (Iko Uwais). When they locate the hotel he’s staying in, they head up to his room to arrest him. Tipped off to their arrival, Teijo starts a shootout, which allows him to escape.
Fast forward a few months. Vic has no new leads on Teijo and his case is being given to the FBI. Captain McHenry (Mira Sorvino) sends him home to spend time with his daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales), who drops him off at the eye clinic to have Lasik eye surgery. Now that he’s unable to see or drive, at least for the time being, his daughter sets him up on the Uber app so that he can attend her art gallery show later that night.
We then meet Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), a meek and overly polite South Asian man. He’s meeting with Becca (Betty Gilpin), his friend, business partner, and the love of his life, to sign a lease for her Spin Class business. In order to help support her, Stu works as an Uber driver on the side, but struggles to maintain a rating over four, which he needs to keep the job. This inevitably puts Stu on the path to meeting Vic, who has been given a fresh new lead on Teijo’s whereabouts. The rideshare program becomes a ride along for Stu as he is forced to chauffeur Vic around, with the threat of a one star review, ending his side-gig as an Uber driver.
The absurd premise makes Stuber a hit or miss movie for many audience members, but the comedy works more than not, landing more hits than misses with its brand of humor. Off the bat, Bautista and Nanjiani come off as an odd pairing to lead a buddy cop film because both actors, talented as they are, are often best served as supporting characters. Granted, it takes a while for both actors to warm up to each other, but once they do, the two find solid chemistry.
The film makes good use of the unlikely pairing trope for these two as each character offers up something that is absent in the other. This allows each to progress and develop their own personal arcs, and for Stu especially, it has a rather satisfying payoff. Stu’s emotional IQ is on display for much of the film in how he deals with others, but there is a level of frustration in seeing him fall into the same kind of trappings you know he should be capable of avoiding. So when the film comes to his big moment where you might think you know where it’s going, Stuber quietly subverts your expectations with a great moment that had me, and the audience I saw it with, audibly applauding.
Stuber offers a great amount of laughs that should connect with audiences. Bautista’s physical comedy combined with Nanjiani’s pitch-perfect delivery make for a hilarious combination that consistently brought out big laughs from the audience I saw it with. The film isn’t perfect, but it got the job done and brought me to my destination while delivering a fun time along the way. ~Paolo Maquiraya