Stuber (2 stars)

Stuber

Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani team up for a disappointing Uber-driven buddy movie

If the feature-length toy advert that was The Lego Movie was a pleasant surprise, Stuber doesn't bring nearly as much imagination to its Uber-driven story, the existence of which is testament to the cab app's rapid rise to ubiquity. The latest from the Canadian director of Goon and It's All Gone Pete Tong, Michael Dowse, is a floundering, only fitfully funny action caper that sees a beleaguered cab driver and an angry cop buddy-up for hijinks.

Dave Bautista is Vic, a detective furiously grieving for his partner Sara (Karen Gillan) whilst working on catching her killer, Teijo (The Raid's magisterial martial artist Iko Uwais, who we see Vic tangling with in the prologue and who barely merits a line). When Vic schedules his laser eye surgery on the same day as his sculptor daughter's art exhibition, she installs Uber on his phone to ensure he has a way to get there. Instead, as he recovers from the procedure, our half-blind protagonist races around town in pursuit of Teijo, with Kumail Nanjiani's Uber driver Stu (nickname: 'Stuber') his unwitting accomplice.

Bautista's endearing curmudgeon act was expertly employed in the Guardians of the Galaxy films but he doesn't fly as the focal point here. Seemingly expending his energy remembering to squint, the former pro-wrestler brings a powerful physicality to the vaguely incoherent action scenes but needs a stronger performer to bounce off; although that should be Nanjiani (so good in self-penned comedy The Big Sick), the comedian's loose, understated schtick is poorly served by the weak material – basically a series of lame one-liners – and the spark between the leads is embarrassingly absent.

Its commentary on modern life has its moments but, as it nods to The Terminator, Beverly Hills Cop and When Harry Met Sally…, Stuber hopes to emulate the magic of such films, leaning on lazy nostalgia and tired tropes ad nauseum. However, a bad guy being blackmailed with shameful Twitter posts is inspired, a fight in a sporting goods store becomes a battle of Vic and Stu's competing versions of masculinity, while the expected trip to a strip club is nicely subverted.

But Tripper Clancy's weak script only delivers a decent gag every 20 minutes or so. And the lip service it pays to feminism is ludicrously undermined by the poor quality of its female roles: Karen Gillan is 'fridged' in the opener, others (Betty Gilpin's asinine love interest Becca, Natalie Morales as Vic's aforementioned daughter Nicole) are left swinging, destined to be desperate or disappointed. Light on laughs, heavily indebted to that which came before, Stuber is an unsatisfying ride to a predictable destination.

General release from Fri 12 Jul.

Stuber

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 33min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Michael Dowse
  • Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan

Vic (Bautista) is a detective grieving for his partner Sara (Gillan) while trying to catch her killer; in the course of this, he makes Uber driver Stu (Nanjani) his unwitting accomplice. There’s no spark between the leads, Nanjiani’s material is weak and the female roles are very poor. Floundering and not funny enough.

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