'Stuber' pairs angry cop, low-key Uber driver in hit-and-miss action comedy

  • A cop recovering from eye surgery (Dave Bautista), left, turns to an Uber driver (Kumail Nanjiani) to help him pursue a killer in "Stuber."

    A cop recovering from eye surgery (Dave Bautista), left, turns to an Uber driver (Kumail Nanjiani) to help him pursue a killer in "Stuber." Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

 
 
Updated 7/11/2019 6:08 AM

"Stuber" - ★ ★

"What do I do to make this all stop?" Stu the Uber driver says in Michael Dowse's violent, repetitive buddy action comedy "Stuber."

 

Good question.

If five stars represent the highest rating for Uber drivers and four stars operate the same way for movies, then "Stuber" rates two stars for its two main stars, one of whom dwarfs the other in both comic timing and comic delivery.

But the main drag on this reverse "Ride Along" movie turns out to be Dowse's style-challenged direction and his fondness for repeating jokes and gags that die of old age right in front of us.

So, if one blood-splattered headshot gets laughs, Dowse assumes several others will get even more laughs.

Or if a violent, nearly blind cop earns laughs by driving his car into a construction ditch, imagine how hilarious it would be for him to run around L.A. solving a murder case by wreaking even more acts of blind destruction.

"Stuber" opens with L.A. cop Vic ("Guardians of the Galaxy" star and pro-westler Dave Bautista) witnessing the killing of his partner (Karen Gillan) at the lethal hands of heroin dealer Teijo (Iko Uwais).

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Vic's boss Captain McHenry (Oscar-winning Mira Sorvino, still unrecognizable after cosmetic surgery) tells him to not take this personally. Right.

Six months later, as Vic recovers from LASIK eye surgery, he finds out that the treacherous Teijo will be part of a massive drug deal going down that very night.

Vic can't see, but that hardly stops him from driving his car to meet one of his snitches. That doesn't end well.

Good thing his daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales) installed an Uber app on his phone. His driver is Stu, the aforementioned Uber driver played by talented Pakistani-American stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani.

Low-key and reserved, Stu wants only one thing in life: to turn his platonic relationship with longtime friend Becca (Betty Gilpin) into something much more romantic.

Oh, he wants one more thing: a five-star rating to boost his sagging Uber scores.

Strong-willed, forceful Vic easily pressures poor Stu into driving him everywhere, such as murder scenes and some really bad parts of town.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The belligerent big guy and the subdued smart guy make for a classic comic duo, and in many parts of "Stuber," Bautista and Nanjiani eke out a few comical conflicts.

Still, Bautista gets stuck recycling his enraged rhino in a china shop act, leaving Nanjiani to supply a flood of passive-aggressive witticisms that he tosses out with seemingly spontaneous aplomb.

These may be credited to screenwriter Tripper Clancy, but many of Nanjiani's droll quips sound too off-the-cuff to have ever been on-the-cuff.

Nanjiani's persona varies little from his stellar performance in "The Big Sick," based on his real-life romance with a grad student. He played a Chicago stand-up comic who moonlights as an Uber driver.

Although "Stuber" traffics in R-rated violence on comical overdrive, a scene in which the cop tortures a man for information feels wrong for the tone of this movie, and works as a turnoff against Vic. (And if it doesn't, maybe we have another problem.)

Just how far will an Uber driver go for a five-star rating?

• • •

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan

Directed by: Michael Dowse

Other: A 20th Century Fox release. Rated R for language, nudity, sexual references, violence. 105 minutes

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