Really bad films, depending on their unintentional laugh factor or bizarreness, can still be entertaining to the point of curiosity. Some can even leave you with great conversation the next time you are around the water cooler.
In fact, it’s the merely mediocre films that can be most excruciating to watch, as they are often full of missed opportunities, leaving the viewer with nothing memorable. “Stuber” is one of those.
At a glance, this action comedy directed by Michael Dowse has a winning formula: The lead actors are both talented and funny, and the concept has potential for comedic gold. But it appears writer Tripper Clancy completely bungled it into a forgettable couple of chuckles.
It follows rogue cop Vic Manning (Dave Bautista), fresh out of recent Lasik surgery, who is forced to rely on an Uber driver named Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) to chase down a drug dealer. Now, their performances are not an issue; Bautista has proved several times over that he’s a perfectly capable actor who can find chemistry with his co-stars, and he has some pretty darn good comedic timing. Nanjiani, a professional comedian, writer and actor, is also very funny with the right material. But unfortunately, the script fails both of them at every turn.
Take the most generic cop thriller you can think of full of every trope in the book — cop with dead partner, drug dealer chases, violent interrogation, a corrupt police boss and more — then just make the cop’s mode of transportation an awkward Uber driver. That’s about as creative as the story and film get. There are so many cop tropes in the “action” half of this comedy, it’s barely watchable simply due to overfamiliarity. I had the ending figured out about 45 minutes in, and I was right on the money.
The gags are very hit-or-miss. One gave me a genuine laugh early in the film, some I chuckled at, but most I sort of just smirked at. But the biggest problems here are the characters. It’s very hard for Vic’s stereotypical movie cop to be likable in any way; he just comes off as a jerk the entire time with almost no redeeming qualities. You just sort of end up feeling sorry for Stu, as he’s just trying to get home from his Uber job to pursue a shot at a love interest.
Even some potentially great settings and locations are squandered. Vic’s pursuit of a lead at a male strip club should have been a lot funnier than it was. And a shootout at an animal hospital could have taken a very dark comedic route, but there isn’t a single real gag in this entire sequence; it’s just a shootout at an animal hospital.
Even at a short running time of 93 minutes, with credits that can be skipped, it feels like a chore to get through this movie. It’s not really worth the hour and a half of your limited and valuable time, especially given that the theaters are loaded with some goodies right now, including “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “Toy Story 4,” “Midsommar” and “Crawl.”
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“Stuber” is currently playing at the Riverside Cinemas, 1017 S. Boone St. in Aberdeen.
George Haerle holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing for media and lives in Cosmopolis.