Stuber film review: Kumail Nanjiani shines on a senseless joyride

Despite Stuber's flaws, the star of The Big Sick makes an entertaining Uber driver.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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Jennifer Bisset
3 min read

Dave Bautista's Vic and Kumail Nanjiani's Stu protect that dog at all costs.

Walt Disney Studios

It's been a little while since Kumail Nanjiani's standout turn in 2017's The Big Sick, the comedian's compelling semi-autobiographical comedy about an interethnic couple. Two years later, Nanjiani stars as an awkward  Uber  driver in Stuber, an action comedy with a vaguely similar odd-couple conceit. It has its smooth turns, especially when referencing the good and bad aspects of Uber, but the frantic gun fights and overall predictability don't do Nanjiani's brilliance justice.

At least Nanjiani is on screen for most of the time. The Uber aspect is also an inviting update to this buddy cop jaunt from director Michael Dowse, best known for rom-com What If. Nanjiani's Stu, a bullied sporting goods store worker who drives his electric Nissan between shifts -- "Stuber," his cruel and unfunny manager calls him -- is steamrolled into helping Vic Manning, Dave Bautista's temporarily blind take-no-prisoners LAPD detective, on a city-wide mission.

Watch this: Stuber cast relives its craziest Uber experiences

This involves chaperoning Vic to various shady locations as he attempts to avenge the death of his young-and-promising partner, Sarah Morris (Karen Gillan). Gillan's chance to shoot a gun outside Guardians of the Galaxy lasts minutes before Morris is quickly taken out in a disorientating shoot 'em up. Line of Duty attempted handheld shakiness better. Morris' murderer, Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais), is an all but generic drug dealer, except for his surprising skill at some form of martial arts.

Why does an Uber driver risk his life for a rampaging, irrational cop? For the mildly amusing reason that Vic threatens to give Stu a bad Uber star rating, which could see Stu lose his side-job. While the events that lead up to Vic needing an Uber driver in the first place are ludicrous -- he decides to drive his own car immediately after eye surgery and unsurprisingly crashes -- their unlikely partnership somewhat successfully provides an emotional backbone. This is amid the colorful insults.


Stu and Vic having fun on their adventure.

Hopper Stone/SMPSP

The other relationships are far less interesting. The friendzoned Stu has a chance to swoop in on a recently broken up Becca (Glow's Betty Gilpin), who's home drunk on the sofa, waiting for him to hurry up and join her. Vic is also on a deadline, his daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales) hoping he'll finally see her art at an exhibition on the same night all the action takes place.

Nanjiani brings a handful of laughs, mainly during a knowing if not very subtle montage that traverses the ails of Uber drivers. Felix (Steve Howey), a male stripper who gifts Stu questionably promiscuous dating wisdom, provides another highlight. While so often a comedic standout with co-star Gillan in Guardians of the Galaxy, Bautista doesn't fare well as Vic continues his alarmingly stupid decisions. Even when they make sense, like smashing a store window to alert the cops, you still find Vic tiresome.

Underneath the bond our two heroes predictably form, there's a sly hint that Uber, the scandal-scarred company itself, may have approved of Stuber's well-meaning themes about male friendship and emotional expression. Still, the unorthodox protagonists aren't to be shirked, Stu a hero you don't often see onscreen even after Crazy Rich Asians' success.

Despite Stuber's cars, sex, guns and buddy cop-fueled engine, its one-star stupidity brings its occasionally-amusing Uber ride to a screeching halt.

Stuber arrives in theatres July 12.

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