‘I’ ON CULTURE
The main problem with the new comedy Stuber is that while it’s funny at times, those times are few, and things are never really that funny. Trying to pull off comedy in the middle of a tough cop movie is a problem. There’s plenty of bloodshed, and getting laughs is tough as people become victims.
The film begins with cops Vic (Dave Bautista) and Sarah (Karen Gillan) trying to arrest a drug kingpin in his penthouse. The task made more difficult by the desk clerk’s warning call. Early in the fight, Vic’s glasses get knocked off, and he can barely see. That leads to a lot of action, ending when bad guy Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais) pulls a gun on Sarah and kills her before escaping. Six months later, Vic decides to get Lasik surgery and just by coincidence (if you are under 10 years old) an informant tells him that Teijo will be around that evening. Of course, since this is the movies, Vic had the surgery on both eyes and is reasonably close to blind. Add to that the fact that his daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales) was having an art exhibition that night.
Since his driving quickly leads to disaster, he calls an Uber and gets Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), a nice guy but a bit of a loser, driving an electric car. Stu’s day job is working at a big box sporting goods store where the manager (Jimmy Tatro), the son of the owner, constantly tosses verbal abuse his way. He is the one who tags Stu with the “Stuber” name, combining Stu and Uber. To add to his misery, the “love of his life” Becca (Betty Gilpin) is a user who gets him to invest in her dream of a gym for women. He adores her, focusing on the one time they hooked up, not the fact that she has since pretended it never happened.
At this point, we have a buddy film with Vic effectively kidnapping Stu as they go through a whole series of supposedly funny routines as Vic tracks the bad guy. That includes one genuinely funny scene where Stu gets relationship advice from a male stripper. Stu keeps trying to get away, and Vic prevents him from leaving. And, of course, they fight like crazy, deal with a mole in the department and, well, you should be able to figure out the ending.
The problems with the script are huge. Again, the double Lasik. And what father sets it up on the same day as his daughter’s major art show? And how can Vic manage to shoot down bad guys when he can’t really see anything. And why does Stu not simply call the other police and have Vic shut down? And why would the police have a guy who is essentially legally blind if he loses his glasses equipped with a gun? And how come a big bear of man like Vic somehow has trouble beating down a skinny little bad guy who somehow manages to be the only survivor of multiple shooting frenzies.
The cast does help a lot. Nanjiani has a nice screen presence. He manages quite a few fun quips as he plays the extreme victim… until he does change. Bautista is good as Vic. His physical comedy works well with Nanjiani. He has a part that should be unsympathetic (his failings are as big as he is), but he manages to overcome that. Morales is very good as the daughter. Mira Sorvino is wasted as Vic’s boss. Tatro does well in an unsympathetic part. While seemingly a guy who would abuse a loser, he feels that he is the real loser in terms of life. Gilpin, seen mostly through a cell phone, manages to incorporate all elements of a really unsympathetic person. Gillan, so good in Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy as Nebula, is wasted; dead in the first few minutes.
There were a few people who laughed all the way through the film. Most of the audience stayed silent with a handful of chuckles here and there. If you like dumb physical humor, you might have found just the movie you can really like. For the rest of us, wait until it shows up on television, which should be very soon.