The buddy-cop movie is a genre that doesn’t really exist anymore, so when I first heard about STUBER at this year’s South By Southwest Film Festival, I was really excited about it. That it was also directed Canada’s own Michael Dowse (FUBAR, IT’S ALL GONE PETE TONG, GOON, THE F WORD) captured my interest even further. While I missed it at SxSW I caught up with the movie this weekend and was pretty much disappointed overall by a good idea not given anything new or refreshing.
The title refers to Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) who moonlights as an Uber driver and is working in a sporting goods store. Things take a turn when an undercover cop (Dave Batuista) comes into his life to help him track down a criminal (Iwo Ukais from THE RAID movies) who is in close proximity.
Now, there are a few VERY interesting elements here. Batuista’s character has just had laser surgery and is in recovery, but must get back on the case when he finds out he can catch the bad guy. His blindness gets a few laughs early on as he tries to take chase and winds up driving in all directions and nowhere near anything even resembling a road. I admit, I laughed at a lot of this sequence and wished the whole feature had this sense of wackiness.
Meanwhile, Stu is in love with a woman he works with and has the occasional fling with; he has feelings for her (although based on a mere minute of watching his love interest, I have no idea why) but does not want to rock the boat. When Dave comes along, however, he heavily pushes the relationship even though I pretty much couldn’t stand her.
That said, the two of them are at wits with one another. Dave fully uses Stu to his advantage and Stu is trying not to have any of it, even though he REALLY wants a five-star rating from Dave which could save his Uber-driving status. Mid-way through, there is a brutal fight scene here that is bizarre to describe and involves a lot of physical violence yet it ends with a wink and a smile. All I was thinking of was Tom & Jerry animated shorts where everyone seems to be getting hurt but there’s no actual injury. What’s even worse is that the fight takes place between our two leads and there’s a major lack of fighting from Iwo Ukais. A wasted opportunity, to say the least.
Director Michael Dowse, who has had such a varying career of Canadian and American film, flat out misses here. He started out with the aforementioned FUBAR movies and more recently he impressed with THE F WORD (aka WHAT IF in the United States), GOON and the overlooked TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT and yet save for what I am guessing are a few Canadian references here and there that are his contribution, none of his style or panache is here at all.
That said, the comedic pairing of Nanjiani and Batuista is also great, and early on there are some great moments that showcase each of their humour. I especially liked the Canadian winks to Coffee Crisp bars in Stu’s car and how proudly Stu praises them; Coffee Crisp bars ARE that good, after all. I would even love to see these two again in another concept or even more slapstick comedy, if anyone still watches these in theatres.
Ultimately, STUBER is a good concept for a style of action comedy that I wanted to love, yet it’s tone is so wild and the supporting characters so forgettable that it ultimately sinks itself in the second half which turns into too much action and mayhem that made me lose attention. Too bad, as I wouldn’t mind getting an Uber driver like Stu one day….yes, Coffee Crisp bars are my jam.
Rating: ** out of ****
STUBER is now in theatres.