Released: 11th July
Seen: 11th July
Did you know that the only reason that Reece’s Pieces are a thing right now is that they agreed to be a part of the movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial? Turns out that the producers of the film actually tried to get M&M’s but the Mars Company said no. I want it noted that by this point in history, Spielberg had made Jaws, Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark so saying no to him for this kind of deal should’ve probably ended in someone being fired. Anyway, Reece’s said yes, became a part of movie history and saw their sales skyrocket. Now, why am I reciting this well-known piece of history? Because I genuinely want to know exactly who the hell signed off on the use of Uber in this movie because I’m fairly confident that person used to work for the Mars company and was desperately trying to make amends and bet that a movie from the director of Fubar would be just as good as a movie by the director of Raiders. I want to meet this person, I’m sure they regret many decisions.
Stuber begins with Vic Manning (Dave Bautista), your stereotypical hard-nosed cop who takes no prisoners, fires his gun first and pushes the paperwork off to someone else later. After trying to make a drug bust in a hotel, his partner (Karen Gillan, in an upsettingly short cameo) gets shot and killed. Six months pass and Vic is still trying to catch the guy who shot his partner, but it’s a little difficult to catch someone when you have horrible eyesight so he goes and gets Lasik which means that for 24 hours he’s basically blind until the Lasik heals and does its thing. This means he can’t drive… and also means that, inevitably, today is the day a huge lead falls into his lap and he needs to go catch the drug kingpin who murdered his partner. Since he can’t drive, and apparently never got assigned a new partner, he calls an Uber. This uber is driven by the terminally annoying-but-lovable Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) who really just wants to get a 5-Star rating so that he doesn’t lose his job, which he’s dangerously close to doing because Uber will fire you if you drop below a 4-Star rating. So, in order to maintain his rating, Stu must go along with Vic on his mission to stop a drug kingpin and hopefully do it without scratching his newly leased car.
Even though the plot of this movie is pretty contrived, it’s not as bad as it sounds. There’s actually a really good idea here that could carry some good jokes and good physical comedy moments that would let the actors shine. The moments where they find those good jokes and allow the actors a chance to deliver them properly are easily the best moments. Dave Bautista is a natural comic actor, his physical comedy skills are sublime and he has a style of delivery that really works. He also had some great chemistry with Kumail, who is saddled with a pretty annoying character who doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “For the love of God, will you please shut the hell up” but manages to slowly turn that character into something likable. Honestly, I really liked these two as leads and would be gleeful to see them appear together in another movie… maybe one that’s better written than this one.
While the plot itself isn’t bad, the actual writing is basic. There’s an attempt to be meta, with characters talking about how shooting out the tires doesn’t work or how you can’t jump in front of a bullet but then they just do those exact things instead of maybe subverting expectations or writing a half-decent joke. The jokes in this only work because they hired actors who can make them work. You throw these actors into a scene set in a male strip club and yeah, they’ll make some comedy happen just because they have enough talent to make it work. The actors are fighting against writing that does nothing for them. It also stuns me that they cut some of the best jokes from this movie. If you watch the trailer there are at least three or four genuinely good jokes that would’ve really helped make this film a lot better… because then there would’ve been more jokes, and jokes in a comedy is a good thing. This film didn’t really have many jokes that one could attribute to the writers, let’s put it that way.
Stuber is stupid but harmless enough. It started as a great one-line pitch (John McClane on Steroids gets an Uber to stop a drug ring) but forgot to add a lot around that pitch. It relies heavily on the talent of its leads and gives them nothing to work with. It’s lucky those leads are talented enough they manage to pull something out of the pile of nothing that was handed to them. With a few cool action set pieces and a lot of explanation of how Uber works (I swear if Uber didn’t pay for this product placement, I will be stunned), it’s a film that I won’t object to watching again but I wouldn’t actively seek out. Honestly, I just had major Men in Black: International flashbacks and if we end up finding out that Stuber had the same production issues that MIB had, I will not be shocked.