Most of us probably have an Uber horror story or two, but most of them probably don't end with helping an action hero save the day.
But if viral Uber stories were as fun as Stuber, there'd probably be a lot more five-star reviews for both drivers and passengers.
Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) drives for Uber to make extra money while working a day job. He also has plans to cosign his friend Becca's (Betty Gilpin) spinn business. Meanwhile, federal agent Vic (Dave Bautista) is on the trail of Tedjo (Iko Uwais), who killed his partner. The feds take the case away from Vic, but he has intel on one last drop Tedjo's going to make.
Vic is a cop who plays by his own rules. Hopper Stone/SMPSP
Vic hopes he can still bring Tedjo in by himself, despite having just had Lasik eye surgery. Vic can't see well enough to drive, although that doesn't stop him from trying in a comic misadventure that luckily doesn't kill anybody. So Vic resorts to ordering an Uber and promises Stu five stars if he drives him around until he captures Tedjo.
This is a fun twist on the buddy action-comedy genre, and Stuber can certainly stake its claim on being the first Uber-inspired action comedy. Uber has become such a part of our lives that it's fun to see it represented in pop culture. The audience can appreciate the montage of Stu's bad passengers and empathize with the racist feedback some have left him. By comparison, "Stuber" is a relatively kind nickname. Stu is on the cusp of dropping below four stars and losing his Uber income, so it makes sense that he'd be desperate enough to take Vic's offer.
Vic is used to this but Stu is just an Uber driver! Hopper Stone/SMPSP
Bautista and Nanjiani have great chemistry. It's obvious that a lot of the jokes in the movie were improvised, with lines like "Douche Lundgren" and "Cobra Kai" making the cut. Bautista embraces the basic comedy of a temporarily blinded man being over-the-top as he gracelessly navigates his surroundings.
Still, Vic and Stu each have something to teach each other. Stu has been a doormat for everyone, from women to his bosses and his passengers. The movie makes it clear that he needs to stand up for himself. Although the pressure people put on him to tell Becca he actually loves her comes dangerously close to making Becca a prize to be won by a white knight figure. Fortunately, that narrative resolves in a way that's fair for both Becca and Vic.
In return, Stu helps Vic see that he's been neglecting his daughter, Nicole (Natalie Morales). In the hands of the wrong actor, Vic could be a toxic character, but Bautista is so endearing that all of his bravadoes feel like an outrageous mask for the teddy bear underneath.
Unfortunately, director Michael Dowse and cinematographer Bobby Shore decided to film the fights and chase scenes in the shakycam quick cut style beloved by directors like Paul Greengrass. As a result, the action sequences of this action comedy fall short, because you can't follow any of the cool moves Vic uses on the bad guys. Any fights between Bautista and The Raid legend Uwais are unfortunately obscured. Gunfights fare a little better since they're simply shot back and forth. But the inevitable buddy brawl between Stu and Vic is so delightfully over-the-top that you can appreciate the absurdity even if the cinematography is unsteady.
Amazingly they were able to derive a still image from the shaky action of Stuber.Karen Ballers
Stuber is a funny modernization of the odd-couple/buddy-action-comedy, not only in its use of technology to connect mismatched characters but in its evolved perspective on how the stereotypical characters of the genre can grow. Nanjiani and Bautista each get their own spotlight, with Stuber (hopefully) serving as their vehicle to more leading roles.