Wholesome comedies that are almost impossible to dislike can be some of Hollywood’s most guilty pleasures. Too few are willing to admit their cravings for such content. These types of comedies often carry a stigma that is not shared with other genres made in the same vein. Many attach terms such as “harmless” to films as insults when the word itself can be far from insulting. Indulging in good old fashioned hijinks in the simplest of forms does not have to be demeaning, and Stuber is here to remind audiences of that.
20th Century Fox’s latest comedy comes from director Michael Dowse (Goon) and upcoming writer Tripper Clancy. Lead by Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Stuber follows the concept of a renegade cop, who against his better judgment, defines a whole new level of misuse through the Uber driving service. Bautista’s loose cannon cop persona could not be a stronger mismatch for Nanjiani’s reserved and tender persona of an Uber driver. To one, solving the case of his career is the dream goal; to the other, it is keeping a rating above four stars.
Under incompetent hands, this concept could have easily danced a fine line of problematics. The last thing some audiences may want to see right now is law enforcement abuse any kind of customer service. However, the leads are not only fantastic (just as they are in all of their other work) – but the characters are built from relatable struggles. Complementing the primary conflict are internal ones derived from the lack of self-care. What happens when an aging cop raised in knee-high machismo is challenged with showing emotion? Is working jobs like Uber the end or a means to an end when one’s priorities are not aligned?
The bar of insanity is tested with these themes making for lots of genuine laughter. It does venture into raunchy territory, justifying an R-rating, but finds some levity within the vileness. Some key plot elements are also just too silly to be mad at. Bautista has already proven his acting range across multiple genres, although it is very satisfying to see that even in comedies he does not resort to being a thin one-liner character. If one has also longed to see Nanjiani go crazy in a mob shootout then this just might be for them.
Stuber does not cross the finish line without some faults. The film’s simplicity can be both positive and negative. On one hand, it delivers a thorough enough plot supported by theme, memorable hijinks, and engaging leads. On the other, some characters and beats feel misguided. Iko Uwais (The Raid: Redemption) is one of the most well-known foreign action stars and serves as the antagonist here. Unfortunately, he is not in the movie enough to feel more like an extended cameo. It feels like he was brought on board to provide more thrills, rather than being a full-fledged character. He is a great actor who can also deliver unhinged action; Hollywood should not take such a one-sided approach to him.
Fellow Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Karen Gillan also feels underused in her a role. It does not help that she plays a common trope seen in the crime sub-genre. It really makes one think why 20th Century Fox chose her for the role if it was only to be like a cameo. Surely her talents demand more? She still delivers excitement in her screen time, even though it feels slightly misguided.
Simplicity’s good bearings outweigh the weaker links still making for a worthy viewing experience. In retrospect, Stuber will be seen as a small cinematic treat. Both memorable and compact, it would not hurt to start seeing an influx in wholesome comedies like this. Double the order if they are lead by diverse talented casts like the one seen here.
Be sure the check out Stuber when it hits theaters on July 12!