New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers:

Stuber is stupid and silly. Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista sure try hard enough. There’s plenty of action but it’s just über-violence, which becomes not only this uber driver’s nightmare, but ours as well. This buddy road trip comedy should have never hit the streets nor the screen.

Director Michael Dowse (What If, Goon) and Writer Tripper Clancy have put together a film that we’ve all seen before. This plot has been done better many times over, just not with the update of transporting the principle actors from place to place in a ride share. The rough guy teams up, not by choice, with the timid one. They are as different as they come, but somehow, through the most ridiculous or violent situations, they end up working together. 

Kumail Nanjiani, who plays Stu the Uber driver, is pretty much the same as he was in Sick and other past roles. He is well-meaning but clueless, innocent and compassionate to a fault. The jokes about getting his five star ratings and pandering to passengers do get some, but not enough, laughs. Bautista who plays the LA cop Vic, shows he really can act while flexing his bulging muscles doing big action stunts which is not much of a stretch for this professional grappler.

Bautista plays the cop determined to avenge the murder of his partner by a master criminal/drug lord. The twist is he’s got lousy eyesight and on the day of his LASIK surgery, he uncovers a big deal going down that will give him a shot at avenging his partner. Since his vision is blurry after the procedure, he calls for an Uber and then holds that five star rating over the poor driver, Stu, (Nanjiani) to schlep him all over on his dangerous mission.

The eyesight jokes get tiresome and ineffective after awhile. 

For a movie that’s billed as a comedy, precious few laughs come from the Big Guy. Bautista has already proved he can get laughs as superhero Drax the Destroyer in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. But in this script he’s just one big battering ram. He uses nothing but brute force to impose his will on timid Stu, which isn’t enough to bring a smile on anyone’s face.

There are a few moments here Nanjiani digs up some laughs with his understated comeback lines and a fun, colorful scene in the dressing room of a male strip club. But interestingly, it’s the female characters who brighten the screen even in their minor roles. Mira Sorvino gets to play the heavy as Vic’s police captain. Natalie Morales as Nicole is Vic’s artistic, neglected daughter who is the only character who actually portrays some believable emotion. Betty Gilpin’s Becca (GLOW, Isn’t It Romantic) is Stu’s self-centered, clueless love-interest and wacky business partner.

This script should have created an atmosphere that builds cooperation and camaraderie. Instead of enjoying seeing these two likable actors develop a fun buddy relationship, we just feel sorry for Stu wishing he could find a way to dump this brutish passenger and the whole unsatisfying trip. It’s the first R rated Disney film in 6 years. 

Stuber is one of those movies that serves as canon-fodder for the Summer blockbuster season.There has to be something else to project on the screens in the cineplex besides Toy Story  and Spiderman. And here it is.

In the future, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista will act in better movies than this. We look forward to sharing one of those rides. 

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures          93 Minutes               R

from Movies and Shakers

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