Review – Stuber (2019)

With a title like Stuber, and a concept that revolves around a ride-sharing service that encourages riders to rate their drivers out of five stars, the jokes write themselves. Unfortunately, the writers are far less successful in cultivating additional laughs, with Michael Dowse’s buddy action-comedy a complete car crash.

Stuber follows Stu, an Uber driver, who unwillingly becomes part of a police officer’s revenge arrest operation. Hijinks ensue and eyes roll in this poor effort starring Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani as the mismatched duo. Light spoilers lurk within.

It’s genuinely perplexing how such a modern invention like Uber manages to find itself in the driving seat of a comedy that otherwise feels so painfully dated and behind the times. As if all the “jokes” were written in the mid-00s and put on the back burner until the Uber concept presented itself for the gags and references to be moulded into a screenplay later, everything about Stuber feels like a straight-to-DVD release lifted straight from the supermarket’s discount movie section (or, if we’re feeling modern, a straight-to-Netflix bomb). Writer Tripper Clancy doesn’t land on a single joke worth remembering, with a lazy handling of race and stereotypes ratifying what a careless script it really is; if it thinks a self-awareness and upfront acknowledgement of those social issues let it off, it thought wrong.

It similarly feels dated in the way it handles its women. After a short, promising prologue that quickly dispatches one of its only (interesting) female characters in order to more easily plot the main character’s arc – while also barely referring to it again, despite it supposedly leading the bulk of the narrative – all that potential is proven to be a misdirect, and so begins a 93 minute film that feels almost double that. As someone who then went on to a rewatch of Ari Aster’s Midsommar – of which I’m not particularly crazy about – that film’s 147-minute runtime flew by in comparison to this sluggish ride.

If Clancy wanted to leave the heavy lifting to Stuber’s leads, he was spiteful in lumbering them with such a tepid outline in the first place. While Nanjiani has especially proven himself to be a fine comic actor, responsible for the terrific The Big Sick (in an acting and writing capacity) and leaving the biggest (positive) impression in Men In Black: International despite being the film’s (literally) smallest character, he cannot save face here. Gags run on for far too long – most notably an elongated Ryan Gosling tweet that worsens with each and every second that ticks by – and xxxxxxxxx

The comedic gifts don’t come as naturally to Dave Bautista, whose attempts at an acting career have all but fallen on their face outside of his career-propelling role in Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy franchise, so it’s even more painful watching him contend with the nonsense on the page. His character is straddled with an eyesight issue for the majority of the runtime, and while this could have yielded some effective slapstick humour, it’s an utterly wasted conceit that produces endless eye rolls and bottom-of-the-barrel humour. Nobody expected smart humour with this one, but it’s just messy.

Not only is this laugh-free affair entirely ineffective as a genre piece, unable to muster any memorable chuckles, it’s also a completely perplexing experience too: that this film managed to pass through as many producers and executives and studios heads as it did without someone broaching the “isn’t this suppose to be a comedy?” question is concerning — it speaks loudly of a complete disregard for quality. The poor editing and unremarkable direction remove any sense of energy and tension from the action set pieces too, making it a failure on that front, too.

Bautista condemned audiences and critics for not seeing the film in a tweet shortly after its underwhelming opening weekend (from which it hasn’t recovered), asking why audiences weren’t seeing this “plain and simply fun” movie. Well, Dave, let me put it bluntly – laugh-free comedy isn’t fun, lazy storytelling isn’t fun and dated writing isn’t fun. Nothing about Stuber is fun.

Even in a cinematic landscape in a state of disrepair, Stuber is an eyesore: as unfunny as they come and behind the times, despite the contemporary conceit at its disposal. Stuber is as stupendously stupid as its title suggests. A real, real car crash. No stars.

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