Dave Bautista is in-demand and well on his way. While Guardians of the Galaxy put him on everyone’s collective radar, the wrestler-turned-actor has been doing bit roles as what can best be described as “mini-bosses” in the years leading up to it, and now he’s starting to get his big break as a star. Unfortunately, Stuber is a misfire in that grand plan.
20 minutes into Stuber, I was wondering who this film was even for. The script is too vulgar on paper to accommodate a PG-13 rating, but confusingly, the vast majority of it is PG-13-oriented comedy. It’s strange because with a few alterations most of the beats would fit right in with any number of generic teen comedies. Then again, it’s entirely possible that someone thought of the pun itself (the main character is an Uber driver named Stu) and just decided to roll with it, putting out a general casting call just to see who answered.
I’m a sucker for buddy cop comedies but a lot went wrong here. The premise, which ties Kumail Nanjiani ‘s mild-mannered Uber driver character and Bautista’s badass-but-temporarily-vision-impaired (because of laser eye surgery) cop, almost immediately dissolves. Whereas Tom Cruise and Michael Mann’s Collateral (among others) actually tried to justify the whole taxi liaison thing (with blackmail and fear), the concept of Uber itself kind of takes a backseat, as Stu is essentially deputized. The whole “blind” thing is also mostly pointless, with almost no payoff outside of a few mildly amusing one-liners and an action scene at a…veterinarian’s office.
When juxtaposed to the mostly action focus, Nanjiani’s thirsty rom-com story — in which he wants to start a spin class business with someone he is in love with — is bizarre. On his buddy’s end, there’s an attempt to make Bautista likeable (mostly just through his natural stage presence), but his character comes off as a one-track unpleasant person for nearly the entire runtime: Stuber would have been better suited just rolling with it, giving us a full-tilt Riggs from Lethal Weapon. A complete lack of chemistry hurts as both of their b-plots play out and eventually, converge in a whimper.
There are a few shining moments in Stuber, mostly through bit parts like an amusing turn from Shameless’ Steve Howey, but nothing lasting. Anyone who’s also thinking of seeing it based on the promise of The Raid’s Iko Uwais doing cool things: don’t, as he’s completely wasted.
Stuber should have just gone all the way and really made the most of its R rating. With what’s on offer here there’s very little in the way of actual personality, just bland platitudes of a noble father and a caring best friend.
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