As hard as it may be to believe, there was once a time when getting into a complete stranger’s car was something most parents warned their kids about. Now, you can just call up some random person through an app to pick you up and (hopefully) take you to your destination. The biggest risks you run with these types of rides are being forced into a conversation with the driver or accidentally getting into the wrong car. If for some reason you end up in the bumpy ride that is Stuber, you too might leave wishing you had gotten into a different car.
This follows your typical buddy-cop dynamic. You have the good cop/bad cop routine, the excessive amount of shoot-outs, and, of course, there are the comedic interactions. The only deviation comes in the form of having our good cop instead be an Uber driver. Just knowing this little bit about the film, I’m sure most of you can already picture it and have figured out how it all unfolds. Unfortunately, Stuber does nothing to steer its way out of familiar territory but instead sets the GPS to make sure it hits every plot-hole and trope along the way.
From a technical standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with Stuber. Sure, the shaky hand held approach makes the early action sequences mostly unwatchable, but once we get past that speed bump its most a smooth trip. In a surprising twist, there is a fair amount of gore and carnage, which actually helps Stuber get a layer of grit that add to the darker cop aesthetic it swerves in and out of. Michael Dowse’s understanding of comedic timing is the biggest asset this film has going for it. Having directed Goon and Take Me Home Tonight, he has proven to understand how to work an ensemble cast so that every person gets their chance at the mic. Too bad most of them aren’t given anything interesting to say.
Tripper Clancy’s previous two films were German comedies, with Stuber marking his debut in America, and with it, he shows us exactly what he thinks about us. The entire core of the humor centers around the culture clash between toxic masculinity and perceived femininity. The punchline, of course, being that beta male Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is too soft and needs to take a few lessons from aggressive alpha male Vic (Dave Bautista). If you’re rolling your eyes, then you’re reacting the same way I did while watching this. Apparently being in touch with your emotions makes you less of a man. Who knew? This is the type of premise that may have worked in the 90s but has no place in any form of media these days. Like the flat jokes, the story seems to have been put together haphazardly, especially since the whole origin seems to be from a product placement standpoint. It feels as though they got the endorsement from Uber first, and then started hacking a story together to center around it.
For something hoping to be a five-star ride, there are really only two stars that keep this vehicle moving, and that’s Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani. Each actor respectively brings their natural charisma, affability, and humor to their characters, which are flat caricatures to begin with. With only a few gags and jokes at their disposal, the film wholly relies on their riffing to pass the time, which has a low success rate. Their improvised conversations feel natural in the way they remind us of any awkward conversations we’ve had with an overly chatty Uber or Lyft driver. Great for believability, but not so much for on-screen chemistry. Individually, they each deliver what they can as their characters, but together they fall flat. With rides this bad, Stuber makes braving public transportation much more appealing.