Stuber (****) Comedy that doesn’t die hard

Stuber – 2019

Director Michael Dowse
Screenplay Tripper Clancy
Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan

I think it may be time to give Dave Bautista his due. He’s got a pretty good track record when he’s in mainstream films, He’s found a way to disguise his weaknesses and enhance his gifts. This time, teaming with the incredible and talented Nanjiani, we get a buddy cop movie that is as consistently funny as any I have seen in this decade.

Sure, it’s got many tropes. There isn’t one scene in the film that is not presaged by another. The start of the film feels like a Scooby Doo episode complete with Velma losing her glasses. If original is what you are looking for, you’ll likely be disappointed. The magic is in a crisp chemistry between the leads, some interesting side characters and unique twists on those very cliches.

As Stu, Nanjiani does this passive modern American man in every film, but it hasn’t aged so far. He’s reminiscent of a young Gene Wilder as the driver of an Uber who is trying to earn money to make his platonic girlfriend Becca’s (Gilpin) efforts to start a company happen. Of course he’s in love with her, and too much of a wimp to make a move. He’d rather work at all hours to make her happy while she puts her own needs first.

One of his pickups is Vic (Bautista), a cop who just had Lasik eye surgery and needs a ride to bust a criminal who he’s been tracking. The fact that he can’t see is something of a genius move, as it allows Bautista’s incredibly masculine frame to be something of a hindrance. He can’t see anything and runs into many things. An actor of lesser physical gifts would have been obnoxious to observe. Vic’s desire is countered by his inability to see…as well as Stu’s desire to meet another urgent request from Becca.

For Stu, it’s a nightmare that starts slowly then comes to a frenzy midway through. His completely milquetoast nature is pummeled by Vic’s Alpha Dog grueling literal death march from one clue to another. None of their hunting is particularly clever, but the running commentary of each situation by both is funny to the point of a constant smile.

The film is not a work of genius. If you took away the leads, it’d be pretty boring. I loved every minute of it, and so did Em. I am not sure they could pull off another film with this gimmick, but I definitely think I will enjoy watching what each of these two do in the future of action comedy.

(**** out of *****)

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