Movies

'Stuber' is as 'Stuber' does

Review: Dumb action comedy spins its wheels

There's a famous lesson all improv-comedy performers learn: Play to the top of your intelligence. The idea is for one's character not to make choices or say things that are dumber than the character ought to be based on his experience. The new action-comedy "Stuber" breaks this rule with protagonists that constantly act more "stuber-err" than they should.

"Stuber" stars Kumail Nanjiani as part-time Uber driver Stu. At Stu's other job selling sporting goods, his douchebro boss (Jimmy Tatro) tauntingly dubs him "Stuber," but Stu has a much bigger concern: his dwindling star rating on the ride-sharing app. Enter brawny cop Vic Manning (Dave Bautista), whose morning LASIK surgery has rendered him temporarily seeing-impaired just as he gets a major break in a drug case that six months earlier took down his partner (Karen Gillan). Unable to drive, Vic orders up Stu's Uber, and away they go on a not-so-merry chase after drug dealer Oka Tedjo (Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais).

Tripper Clancy's screenplay repeatedly tries and fails to justify the premise Stu sums up as "blind cop kidnaps an Uber driver." Vic has no current or retired cop friends he trusts to help him? Stu is so invested in boosting his star rating that he keeps waiting around for Vic? These are not characters played to the top of their intelligence.

The terribly under-cooked plot purports to bond Vic and Stu based on little to nothing we've seen happen between them and, worse, then stages an extended physical fight between them when they're supposed to be working together to bring down the bad guy. Why? Because some screenwriting coach taught Clancy to raise the emotional stakes -- just not how to do it in any realistic way.

The movie's throwback buddy action-comedy offers unexciting action and unfunny comedy. The fight sequences are ineptly shot and edited, and the jokes fall flat far more often than not (Nanjiani occasionally lands a funny line, perhaps by riffing off-script). It's the kind of movie that makes you feel bad for the actors. Bautista and Nanjiani have star power and could've made a buddy comedy work, but not with this script.

— Peter Canavese

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