So, I didn’t write a very glowing review of “Crawl” this week. In fact, I thought it was ridiculous and said as much. Unfortunately, for me, I’d watched “Crawl” in order to avoid seeing “Stuber,” which I saw just two days later.
While I can’t promise this is going to be a rollicking review, I can say that I liked it better than “Crawl,” which means I’m going against the majority of the Rotten Tomatoes community. “Crawl” stands fresh at 87% while “Stuber” sits just below the halfway point at 45%. Neither is a perfect or even good movie, but I suppose folks like what they like, right?
“Stuber” is the tale of Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), a sporting goods store clerk who moonlights as an Uber driver. He’s single and in love with his best friend, Becca (Betty Gilpin). The second job is to help him raise funds to help Becca open a spin gym called “Spinster.” I guess it sounds like a good idea to someone.
Vic (Dave Bautista) is a cop with a grudge against a drug dealer named Tedjo (Iko Uwais), who killed his partner months before. He’s also got horrible eyesight and scheduled a Lasik surgery on the very day his daughter, Nicole (Natalie Morales) is hosting her first art show.
VIc gets a lead from an informant as he’s recovering from the surgery and schedules an Uber to get him to the informant’s location. Enter Stu, whose main goal in life — besides sleeping with Becca — is to get a five-star rating from his Uber rides.
The two don’t click. Vic can’t see, and he coerces Stu into driving him all over town and even helping out, nearly getting the civilian killed more than once. Stu doesn’t desert him, though. Why? Because he wants a five-star rating. Makes sense, right? Surely risking his life is worth a good review on an app.
That’s the kind of logic the audience is asked to accept. Sure, the film is a comedy, and the odd couple shtick has its moments of fun. But, at the same time, the film loses itself by trying to put in various levels of completely unoriginal emotional drama.
Vic, for example, is a loner who’s haunted by his partner’s death and unable to connect with anyone emotionally. He’s divorced, and his relationship with his daughter is stilted. He always put the job first, of course.
And then there’s Stu. He’s the nerdy dork who has a thing for his best friend. We’ve seen this plenty of times before, and “Stuber” doesn’t offer anything interesting to this tired old story. In fact, Stu isn’t just a sad loser in love with someone who doesn’t love him. No, he’s a sad loser who essentially has girl talk with Becca, especially when she breaks up with her latest boyfriend. (Sometimes, she gets drunk enough to have sex with him.)
As Stu struggles to get his five-star rating from Vic, he’s also trying to get to Becca, who just broke up with her boyfriend. She’s desperate to see Stu. It’s not because she wants to see her friend, though. It’s because she’s simply desperate and quickly getting drunk. She even tells him they can have sex if he’ll hurry up and get there. Seriously.
I don’t know. Maybe I just wasn’t the right audience for “Stuber.” There were moments that made me chuckle. At the same time, I recognized that I was seeing Bautista as the same character I’d seen before in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Vic is basically Drax without the body paint. He’s a stoic fighter set on a course of revenge. I’ve not seen the former wrestler in many things, so maybe there’s something different hiding up his sleeve.
“Stuber” marked my third outing with Nanjiani, following his breakout hit “The Big Sick” and his role as an alien in “Men in Black: International.” He’s witty, wisecracking and actually funny. More often than not, though, his jokes feel forced or just fall flat in “Stuber.”
Maybe I lied. Maybe my opinion of “Stuber” isn’t that much better than “Crawl.” I don’t know. All I know is I felt “Stuber” was better after watching it. Maybe I shouldn’t use a bad movie as the basis for judging others.