Action comedy Stuber stars Kumail Nanjiani as an Uber driver called Stu who desperately needs a five-star rating - but unfortunately, the movie isn't getting a lot of five-star reviews. Stuber has attracted mainly negative reviews from critics, who praise the movie's leads for their efforts in elevating the material, but point to Tripper Clancy's script and Michael Dowse's direction as the movie's weak points.
Guardians of the Galaxy's Dave Bautista plays Vic Manning, a cop who catches a ride in Stu's Uber while chasing down a drug lord, and who recruits Stu to be his sidekick on the case. Indonesian actor Iko Uwais, best known for his roles in The Raid and The Raid 2, plays Oka Teijo, the man that Vic is hunting, and the movie also stars Natalia Morales, Betty Gilpin, and Mira Sorvino. Dowse's previous movies include romantic comedy The F Word and sports comedy Goon.
Nanjiani also played an Uber driver in 2017 romantic comedy The Big Sick, which received massive critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination - but his second time behind the wheel hasn't been quite so well-received. Nanjiani has been given credit for doing his best with a not particularly interesting role, and several reviews lament that Bautista has been typecast as a macho bully, given his charisma in other roles. The general consensus of the negative reviews is that Stuber takes a stab at blending buddy cop comedy with brutal violence in a way that doesn't quite pay off. Here's what the critics had to say:
Without [Nanjiani’s] quick-witted delivery, Stu would be little more than a thin stereotype of beta-male passivity... Refreshing as it is to see Bautista in a lead role that doesn’t slather him in computer-generated body paint, his character is such a boorish bully, such a witless slab of unmodulated aggression, as to completely snuff out even the faintest glimmer of the actor’s charisma. It also dampens what little chemistry he and Nanjiani are able to achieve.
It’s tough enough being an Uber driver without Hollywood deciding that it’s a job ripe with comedic potential. The mostly awful Stuber takes as its premise the idea that mild-mannered Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) will do anything to get a five-star rating, up to and including driving around a maniac loose-cannon cop (Dave Bautista) on the trail of a violent drug lord. Clearly surge pricing also applies to jokes, because it’s mostly about as funny as a traffic jam.
Stuber is as bland and generic a mismatched buddy action-comedy as you’re likely to find. The screenplay... is less a fully formed story than a series of checked boxes... It’s hard to see it gaining any traction. The movie doesn’t do anything well and it’s an open question why anyone would pay money to see a reworking of a premise that offers so little.
It’s telling that the lines that actually land were improvised by the actors and not written by Clancy, and had director Michael Dowse (Goon) given those scenes and comedic arcs more focus, perhaps Stuber would have been naturally funnier. It’s a shame to waste comedic talents like Nanjiani and Bautista, two very different performers who have nonetheless proven their comedic and dramatic abilities in better films.
While these reviews aren't exactly promising, you shouldn't necessarily cancel your plans to see Stuber. The movie currently holds a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that almost half of its reviews are generally positive. If you're looking for a somewhat brainless R-rated action comedy with two talented leads, then Stuber may be worth the ticket price. Here are some of the more positive reviews:
Stuber is a really fun ride and a great way to pass ninety minutes with plenty of action and gags to keep the audience in stitches throughout. Bautista and Nanjiani make for one of the most fun movie odd couples since Schwarzenegger and De Vito, and I'd definitely pay to see more of that combo.
Stuber is kind of dumb and a little bit clunky, but Nanjiani and Bautista click, the action sequences are well-filmed and sometimes brutally funny, and we’re happy to be along for this summertime escapist ride.
Overflowing in physical comedy, Stuber is ultra-violent slapstick that also manages a good amount of self-reflection and heart. The inspired juxtaposition of Bautista and Nanjiani simply cannot be overstated, their lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry making for the very best version of what this movie could be. The addition of martial arts maestro Ido Uwais in the villain spot makes the “action” part of the action-comedy pop, using physical comedy in much the same way that Jackie Chan would at the height of his career.
The other new release in theaters this weekend is creature feature Crawl, in which Kaya Scodelario plays a woman trying to survive a hurricane and a resulting influx of killer alligators. Crawl has received rave reviews, with an impressive score of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, so if you're looking for something new to watch, that may be the safer bet. If you've seen Stuber, let us know in the comments if you thought it was a good ride - or if you'd rather get a Lyft instead.