What we have here is an action-comedy about an Uber driver named Stu. Hence the title, Stuber. These are the jokes, folks. Also not funny — besides the title and the script — is the fact that Stuber traps two talented dudes — Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista — in a car that’s going nowhere so fast that Thelma and Louise would hop right on. Still, if you loved Nanjiani in Silicon Valley and The Big Sick, he’s going to get through the Stuber muck with his reputation intact. His comic delivery is foolproof. Watch Stuber with the sound off (I recommend it) and Nanjiani is still funny. And he matches up well with former wrestler and bodybuilder Bautista whose acting chops and timing made fools of critics who wanted to dismiss him as a beefy sight gag but watched him as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and stayed to cheer. Bautista and Nanjiani are pushing our loyalty with Stuber but they still have the stuff to keep us on their team.
But, oh boy, are they slumming doing this spin on The Odd Couple here. Stu is the fastidious one looking out only for his next five-star ride. His vanity plate even reads FIVESTAR, which shows you how hard Stuber is going to go down. Bautista is Vic, a human battering ram in the form of an L.A. cop from Compton who commandeers Stu’s Uber to track down a killer. Recent Lasik surgery has rendered the crazed detective nearly blind and he needs Stu to be his eyes, his ears, his decoy, and his wheels as he hunts down Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais), the psycho who killed his partner (Karen Gillan).
And we’re off. Or so you’d think. Instead, screenwriter Tripper Clancy merely stitches together every bromance action cliché this side of Jump Street. And director Michael Dowse — whose resume includes Goon, FUBAR, and the deathless It’s All Gone Pete Tong — is still performing true to form.
Detailing the plot takes more patience than I possess. But here are the basics: The love Stu feels for Becca (Betty Gilpin), his business partner, is clear to everyone but Becca, who treats him like crap, which is not unlike the way Vic treats his neglected daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales). Is Vic’s toxic masculinity worse than the female trouble he gets from his boss Captain McHenry (Mia Sorvino). It’s hard to give a damn, so Vic and Stu team up to prove their manhood on the battleground in pursuit of Tedjo. The filmmakers hit the blood spray switch whenever the plot dries up, which is always. Reducing Stu and Vic to generic head-banging doesn’t bring out the strengths in Nanjiani and Bautista, who leave you with the feeling they could have been tied up in a car, force-fed random words and phrases and still puked out a better movie. There are many things you can say about Stuber, but it’s nobody’s idea of a five-star ride.