Buddy comedy 'Stuber' is surprisingly good dumb fun
Summer is the season for low expectations; sometimes, isn’t the sweet relief of full-blast air conditioning and a few moving images enough? Stuber, bless its ridiculous, adrenalized heart, is the kind of movie that clears that bar better than it objectively should — 90 manic minutes of lethal weaponry and stupid-smart punchlines.
A buddy comedy built for the gig economy, Stuber stars Dave Bautista as Vic, an LAPD detective with the approximate shape and dimensions of an industrial washing machine, and Kumail Nanjiani as Stu, a friendly string bean who supplements his low-level job at a sporting-goods store by driving for Uber part time (hence the titular nickname).
The plot, as far as it matters, is roughly this: Vic has been in single-minded pursuit of his former partner’s killer, a major player in the Los Angeles heroin chain, for months — but the day he finally gets the tip on a big drop, he’s just had Lasik surgery. Too blurry-eyed to see his own toenails, let alone get behind the wheel, he commandeers Stu on a mission that stretches across the city, and increasingly involves the kind of activities a hard-earned R rating is made of: Murder, mayhem, male strip clubs.
Bautista never loses his gruff, monosyllabic focus; he’s a bulldog with a five-o’clock shadow. His brick-house solidity is the ideal foil for Nanjiani’s chatty neuroses — a running dialogue of pithy observations, exclamations, and strenuous objections that Vic dismisses with a wave of his ham-hock hands.
All Stu wants is to end this nightmare ride so he can get to Becca (GLOW’s Betty Gilpin), his best friend and elusive crush, whose fresh breakup with her towering NBA-player boyfriend has left her just vulnerable and chardonnay-drunk enough to leave a sliver of a window open for Stu to make his move.
First, though, he will have to shoot a drug dealer in the leg, learn to use dog food cans as projectiles, get waylaid in a hot-sauce factory, and find the limits not just of his hand-eye coordination but his inner strength, too.
Natalie Morales as Vic’s semi-estranged daughter and Mira Sorvino as his station boss, bring some welcome female energy to the boys-club chaos, though Stu’s own sensitivity is frequently the punchline without ever really making him the butt of the joke; maybe that’s because Nanjiani (Men In Black: International, The Big Sick) inhabits Stu’s wry self-awareness so easily. He’s not a coward or a quitter, he’s just a guy who doesn’t want to be an accessory to multiple murders and then die in a leased electric car.
To be clear, Stuber is a very silly movie: Half the action scenes look like they were shot inside a Cuisinart, the sexual politics are questionable, the violence cartoonishly extreme, and the plot has the general coherence of a wet napkin. But Stuber knows that sense and logic aren’t what its audience came for; we’re here for good dumb fun — and of course, central air. B