As the end credits rolled on Michael Dowse’s Stuber, I couldn’t help but feel a slight panic. The movie, which opens this weekend runs around 93 minutes. It has a gruff cop, played by Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049). It has an unintended victim, played by Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick). It has a stealthy villain with a really interesting frosted hair style, played by Iko Uwais, (Mile 22, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). It has a lot of deep, guttural laughs and visual gags, something comedies usually avoid. Finally, it had a lot of heart and soul.
Why then, did I feel like Stuber was familiar?! Michael Dowse is no stranger to comedies, especially romcoms, like The F Word. However, Stuber is very far from being a romcom. Yet, Dowse’s eye for what’s visually funny is apparent throughout the film.
Bautista who plays Vic Manning, an LAPD detective is on a case, but can’t drive because of a visual impairment. Nanjiani plays Stu, an Uber driver who is commandeered by Vic in an effort to stop the notoriously dangerous Oka Teijo (Uwais.).
Tripper Clancy’s script is full of laughs as Vic and Stu become a very odd couple, making stops as the clues lead Vic to Teijo. It’s not just the witty dialog or the ongoing jokes about a five-star rating. There is some true depth and heart to Stu’s deliberative shenanigans with his love interest, Becca (Betty Gilpin).
Bautista can go from straight-laced and grizzled Joe Friday to cracking a smile with his trademark deadpan humor. Both of the actors play off of each other, because the humor is intelligent while it draws from schticky and kitschy slapstick humor.
Stuber is an extremely visual experience, but it is not static, and that’s what makes Stuber so dynamically interesting. Yes, it still feels familiar, but there is something about the way in which Vic goes about detecting and their journey across the LA Basin; it reminded me of Dragnet or even Lethal Weapon, where the clues fit together, but the journey was really the modus operandi of each story.
The forward thinking story and the use of technology, especially Uber really raised the bar for this story. There’s an ongoing gag about Stu’s lease on the car along with his repetitive need for a five-star rating. I still chuckle over his license plate. However, this aspect of the story doesn’t work without Nicole (Natalie Morales), Vic’s daughter as she introduces Vic to the Uber app on his smart phone.
This plot device was an ingenious way to introduce technology in the film, making it familiar to a wider audience. The fact that Vic is not adept at using it and has aggressive tendencies towards his daughter and then eventually towards Stu just reminds us of the toxicity that runs throughout our society. It’s something that I thought the story handled in a classy, funny and inventive way.
Stuber is nothing without its violence, and mysteriously, the marketing is pushing the Nanjiani-Bautista pairing rather than also calling out Iko Uwais, whose martial arts skills are impressive. Perhaps the violence might be a bit over the top, but when you think about how easily Vic flies off the handle and how just as frequently Stu needs to calm him down, the violence makes sense.
Stuber’s comedy comes from the heart. It is intelligent and insightful. It’s action-packed punches are just as effective. At the center of it all is Dave Bautista, who I think is making a big name for himself.
Now, that I’ve said all of this, why does Stuber feel so familiar? Is it the car? It might be. It is the banter between two completely opposite personality types? Most definitely.
Oooh, I got it! I got it! Stuber is The Other Guys v 2.0.
Stuber is rated R and is in theaters now. All photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox/Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios.