Stuber **

It’s mildly amusing, only occasionally funny, and criminally underuses the talented Karen Gillan. 

Is it worth $10? No 

The title “Stuber” is a compound of the main character’s name, Stu, and his occupation as an Uber driver. If you think that’s clever, then maybe you’ll enjoy the mildly amusing, only occasionally funny movie that bears its name. Others will be well-advised to skip this mismatched buddy comedy, unless you’d like to observe how 93 minutes can be made to feel like 153 minutes.

The film opens with a solid action sequence. LAPD cop Vic (Dave Bautista) and his partner Sara Morris (Karen Gillan) are tracking a perp inside a posh hotel. There’s a bit too much handheld camera here, but it’s not edited quickly, so you can follow the hand-to-hand combat in the hotel room, hallway, and lobby, all leading to Morris’ death before the opening credits roll. Why an actress with Gillan’s pedigree (she was Nebula in “Avengers: Endgame,” and was part of the smash hit “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) would sign on for just one scene is odd. Best cynical guess is it was for a big paycheck; best hopeful guess is that she and Bautista were friendly from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and she wanted to do him a favor.  

Back to the movie: Six months later Vic has Lasik eye surgery, so his vision will be blurry for the next 24 hours. While at home recovering he gets a tip that the guy who killed Morris, a drug trafficker named Teijo (Iko Uwais), is in L.A. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, Vic first tries to drive himself, which is supposed to be funny but is really just dangerous, and then hires Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) to take him to Teijo.

Director Michael Dowse’s (“Take Me Home Tonight”) action comedy has a premise that could work, yet it never consistently clicks. This is because so much of what happens feels forced, not organic, as if it’s all there in the hope of generating laughs, not because it’s a natural part of the story. Obviously this is a comedy and the goal is laughter, but it loses its appeal when it feels this manufactured.

There are also too many subplots crammed into 93 minutes. Stu works at a sporting goods store for a jerk boss (Jimmy Tatro). Stu loves Becca (Betty Gilpin) enough to invest in her spinning gym for women, but she sees him only as a friend. Stu is obsessed with his Uber rating, a running joke that tires quickly. Vic is partially blind for most of the movie, a gimmick that could’ve been funnier if Vic didn’t act so illogically. Vic needs to get to his daughter Nicole’s (Natalie Morales) art show because he doesn’t want to disappoint her yet again.

In addition to all this is the condescension with which Vic treats Stu, and the resentment with which Stu treats Vic. There’s not a lot of pleasantness here, which doesn’t help when you’re trying to make people laugh. It’s too easy, derivative and inaccurate to say “Stuber” is stupid, but “Stuber” is stubborn in its insistence to do so much that you’re stupefied by the end.

Did you know?
Nanjiani’s character in “The Big Sick” (2017) was also an Uber driver.

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