Some Uber drivers go to great lengths for a five-star rating. They'll stock up their car with snacks and drinks or ask if the music's too loud. Some may even be willing to drive you in your quest to hunt down a murderer.
That's the premise behind Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista in theaters now. Nanjiani plays Stu, a man in his thirties who works at a sporting goods store and drives for Uber to save up for a spin gym business he wants to open with his dream girl., an action comedy starring
Stu's Uber rating is slipping and he risks being kicked off the platform, so he goes above and beyond to impress his passengers. He fills his glove compartment with Coffee Crisps and mints and is admirably patient with all the backseat drivers and messy eaters (and vomiters) he has to deal with. Even the license plate on his Nissan Leaf is a hopeful "Fivestar."
Then there's Vic (played by Bautista), a middle-aged, old-school detective on a mission to track down the drug dealer who killed his partner.
Fate -- or an Uber request, for the less romantic -- brings Stu and Vic together. What ensues is a modern-day, Uber-driven buddy cop movie that also tackles serious topics like toxic masculinity and complex father-daughter relationships. It's sprinkled with humor and plenty of action as the men embark on a quest to avenge Vic's partner's death.
While it's unlikely anyone's had an Uber experience as insane as the one depicted in the film, Nanjiani once had a strange encounter with a very hungry Uber driver.
"I got in the car one time and there was a box of food next to me that somebody had left," Nanjiani recalls. "I was like, 'Somebody left their food. And [the driver] was like, 'Give it to me.' I handed it to him, and he started eating it. It was noodles. So he's like, eating noodles with his hands while he's driving. I gave him five stars."
There's also the joy of riding Uber in the entertainment capital of the world.
"In LA particularly, there's a lot of actor/Uber drivers," says Betty Gilpin, who plays Stu's love interest Becca. "I've had a lot of performance-based car rides. There's been some instruments in there and some pretty amazing life stories."
Natalie Morales, who plays Vic's daughter Nicole, had a less pleasant experience once when she thought she was getting kidnapped.
"It just turned out that the guy spoke literally no English, not even 'Left' or 'Right' or 'Please stop the car, sir,' or 'Hello' -- none of that," Morales says. "He would just ignore me and keep driving, and not in the direction I was going. I wasn't kidnapped, but I was very scared that I was going to be."
Aside from the jokes and big action, Stuber is filled with relatable experiences and lessons surrounding love, forgiveness and sacrifice. Nanjiani says he also pulled from some personal struggles when playing Stu.
"He wants people to really like him, and that's certainly something that I've felt in myself," Nanjiani says. "I don't think it's necessarily a positive quality in myself -- wanting people to like me. That was the sort of experience from my life that I took and applied to Stu."
The concept of vulnerability not being a weakness is also a valuable message in the film, Morales says, and there's humor in poking fun at toxic masculinity.
Ultimately, Bautista says, Stuber offers more than cheap laughs.
"You leave this film and you actually have something to talk about," he says. "With a lot of comedies, you laugh and you leave and that's it. You see it on cable a year later and you'll laugh again. But this one, it's actually got a message."
I, for one, had it at the top of my mind on the Uber drive home, when I made sure to give the driver a five-star rating.
Originally published July 9.