I wanted to like Stuber. I really did. Kumail Nanjiani is a funny guy. Dave Bautista has really developed into a great screen presence. I love buddy cop movies. This one, though, never quite got up to speed. It is somehow less than the sum of its parts, with just enough scenes and jokes that work to keep me from actively disliking it but enough dead space and repetition that it ended up being not particularly enjoyable.
Stuber opens with Vic (Baustista) and his partner, played fellow Guardian of the Galaxy Karen Gillan, attempting to arrest a drug dealer in a hotel. Things go badly after the aging Baustista loses his glasses and can’t see to take a shot. A year later, Bautista is still on the hunt for this drug kingpin. The movie then introduces Stu, a hapless sporting goods store employee and part time Uber driver who is about to enter into business with his longtime friend and equally longtime crush. In order to cover his portion of the start up investment, he is spending his evenings as an Uber driver. He gets matched up with Bautista, who had just had eye surgery and gets roped into driving him all over L.A. after a lead in his hunt for the drug dealer comes to light.
It mostly plays off the different energy of Nanjiani and Bautista. Bautista is hyper-masculine, an old school man’s man. Nanjiani is more of a sensitive modern man. It is not a new set up at all, but big parts of it work because the actors involved. It helps that, to the script’s credit (or maybe at my memories fault) both characters have something of a point. Stu’s romantic troubles are all his own doing for not having the courage to tell Becca his feelings. Meanwhile, Bautista’s repressed nature is destroying his relationship with his daughter.
While none of them get much to do, Stuber has a solid supporting cast. Natalie Morales plays Bautista’s frustrated artist daughter. Mira Sorvino makes an appearance as Bautista’s supportive Captain and Betty Gilpin has an underdeveloped run as Becca.
At times, Stuber really brought Hot Fuzz to mind. It pulls some of the same tricks, like setting up buddy cop cliches as ridiculous before happily engaging in them. But that comparison shows how Stuber is lacking. Compared to the masterful Hot Fuzz, Stuber feels sloppy and unfocused. It takes a long time to even get its buddy pair together, let alone to get them acting as any kind of team. Stuber gets into a kind of unfortunate rhythm where it will have a genuinely good and funny scene, but then just kind of reset everything. Stu will make the same jokes about Vic, Vic will lob the same insults at Stu and then the movie will arrive at its next destination. Some of those are good, some aren’t, but there is no real sense of building momentum.
There are too many talented, funny people involved in Stuber for it to be a complete waste, but it feels like a missed opportunity. There are glimpses of a really fun movie, but that movie just can’t seem to get out of its own way for any sustained period of time.