The epitome of a spec script gone wrong.
What if a mild-mannered Uber driver (Kumail Nanjiani) has his vehicle commandeered by a detective (Dave Bautista) who is after the man who killed his partner? What if we had the detective be essentially blind the entire time by having him get laser eye surgery just before all the action starts? What if we named the driver character Stu? Then we could call the movie Stuber! That’s hilarious, right?
The epitome of a spec script gone wrong, Stuber was likely sold on its logline (or even title) alone, despite the fact that the screenplay is an unfunny, gruelingly dragged-out mess. Writer Tripper Clancy is constantly grasping at straws trying to maintain his limited momentum, throwing shit at the wall that simply splatters back into the viewer’s face. When Clancy determines that Stu needs a motivator to escape Detective Vic Manning’s seizure of his vehicle, he creates a one-dimensional female character named Becca (Betty Gilpin), who only exists in order to establish a “friend zone” relationship with Stu, who is secretly in love with her (when have we seen this one before?). By having Becca break up with her boyfriend, call Stu in tears and then inexplicably offer to fuck him as a rebound. Stuber sets up a gross and uncomfortable finish line for its protagonist to cross.
Bautista doesn’t get a fair shake either, constantly succumbing to the movie’s banal, aforementioned gag regarding his lack of eyesight. He’s all squinty eyes and slapstick, none of it amusing, and he’s also kind of a dick (which, to be fair, is part of the movie’s point, but nonetheless he’s still an unpleasant character to spend time with). The two actors have limited chemistry, with Nanjiani displaying his oft-typecast persona and Bautista amplifying the big lug disposition he’s already established in Marvel films.
There are also ill-advised racial jokes that Stuber thinks it can justify by following the lines with “Well… that’s problematic” or “Well… that’s racist.” Other jokes are rooted in raunchiness that simply has no bite; it’s just bad language and penis jokes for the sake of having an R-rated spirit that’s designed to appeal to 12-year-olds who just learned their first dirty words. Line after line, scene after scene, Stuber proves itself to be the most laugh-free film of 2019 so far.
The film’s strongest moments are in its action, which director Michael Dowse is able to capture with a sense of dynamism that feels absent whenever the movie is wasting time on its unfunny joke exchanges and exposition dumping. Dowse directed one of the finest hockey comedies of the 21st century, 2011’s Goon, but that movie was amplified by a script that was at once hilarious, moving and engaging. Dowse captured the sloshy, blood-gushing hockey fights with a sense of twisted delight that caused one to cringe, and he thankfully has a few moments like this in Stuber when he’s directing shootouts, car chases and fist fights. But when he’s left beholden to the movie’s disastrous dialogue, Stuber comes to a screeching halt and wholly earns its 1-star rating.
What if this movie never existed? That’d be perfect.