On the surface, Stuber deserves to be a forgettable film. Its concept — cop uses Uber driver to drive him around on police business — seems like some lazy screenwriter’s attempt at shoehorning in the modern world. But the difference between concept and execution can be vast, as is the case in this entertaining film.
Kumail Nanjiani is Stu, a mild-mannered guy who works two jobs mostly as a way to help his friend/unrequited love interest, Becca (Betty Gilpin), start a spin cycle gym. In the course of driving around for Uber, he picks up Vic (Dave Bautista), a cop who’s obsessed with catching a drug kingpin and — plot convenience alert! — has recently had Lasik surgery, preventing him from being able to drive himself around.
Predictably, Vic requires more of Stu than just being his chauffeur. Without a partner or anyone else to help him, Vic drags Stu into increasingly sketchy situations, pushing him far past anything he’s ever done before. Concurrently, the pull of the two women in their lives — Vic’s daughter, Nicole (Natalie Morales), wants him to stop by her art show — keeps each of them even more off-balance than the craziness of the situations they encounter.
Clocking in at a breezy 93 minutes, the film is kept moving by the filmmakers’ willingness to go beyond the expected and the great chemistry between Nanjiani and Bautista. The film didn’t really need to be rated R, but director Michael Dowse and writer Tripper Clancy make it so anyway, loading it up with profanity, a few randomly gory sequences, and more to keep the audience roaring.
The relationship between Stu and Vic is classic odd couple in a way, but the film thankfully shies away from clichés. The outrageousness and fast pace of the plot prevent Clancy from getting bogged down in one-liners, and other little touches — Vic’s technological cluelessness, a clever twist on racial perception — elevate the film, as well.
Following his Oscar nomination for writing The Big Sick, Nanjiani has been in strong demand, including starring in a Marvel movie. He has an affability that’s infectious and also an ability to deliver a cutting line just so. Bautista is an ideal foil who has sheer presence due to his size, with the added bonus of knowing how to act stupid in an endearing way, something he’s perfected during his stint in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Stuber winds up being much funnier than it actually needed to be, a nice surprise in a summer movie season that has had more than its fair share of disappointments. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it overdelivers on its premise and showcases two great actors in prime roles.