Kumail Nanjiani’s humor has worked for me time and time again, and he is the main reason I enjoyed Stuber (2019). Director Michael Dowse also did Goon, which I was a fan of – and his blend of violence and comedy works to Stuber’s favor overall. Keep in mind that while all film is subjective, comedies seem to be even more so. In this case, I found the film to be notably enjoyable, despite some of its more obvious weaknesses.
Stuber is a funny, dumb comedy…and that’s it.
One of those weaknesses is the opening action sequence, and the choice to shoot it “Jason Bourne” style, with very shaky handheld cameras. Officer Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) and his partner Sara Morris (Karen Gillan) are chasing down a drug dealer named Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais). They are instantly met with a shootout in the large hotel they tracked him down in, which leads to a hand-to-hand bout between Vic and Tedjo. The action is mostly incomprehensible until there is a major move done to stall the action for a moment or two – but eventually, the fight leads outside and in disaster.
Six months later, Vic gets laser eye surgery, and is taking some advised time off when Tedjo surfaces. Vic, being the traditional overly-macho police archetype, has never used Uber before, but has no choice if he is going to try and stop Tedjo. Enter Stu, a prime example of the modern male viewed to be overly sensitive and a pushover. He is working two jobs partly to help pay for a small business that Becca (Betty Gilpin) wants to start, and Stu hopes to win her affection by being her partner. Stu picks up Vic, and finds himself in way over his head quite quickly.
Nanjiani and Bautista have solid chemistry, but Nanjiani definitely carries the pairing. Bautista has proven to be funny himself in both Guardians of the Galaxy films, but in Stuber, he is the straight man. There are a few action sequences that work better than the opening, and he is capable of being a convincing threat based on his overbearing stature. Still, it’s Nanjiani and basically all of his scenes that really made me laugh out loud.
There are several scenes that crack me up, but Stu talking with Felix (Steve Howey) about Becca is probably my favorite. Howey is an actor I know from the American version of “Shameless” on Showtime. Here, Felix is a male stripper, and the whole sequence that is essentially flipped from normal buddy comedies works extremely well. What makes Nanjiani standout amongst other stand-ups-turned-actor in recent years his charm. He’s not just funny, but he has a strong likability that wins over the audience – and, often enough – the other characters in the film.
The plot is simple, and the movie doesn’t do anything new with the buddy comedy genre – but it is entertaining enough. There wasn’t anything I found to be particularly bad outside of the shaky cam fight sequence. A few of the actors feel like they could have been given a little more to do, but the movie centers on the opposite attraction between Stu and Vic. Stuber earns a Decent Watch rating.