When you order an Uber on any random day, you hope to be able to get from point A to point B in the fastest possible way, and the Uber driver hopes to get a high rating on the trip from the passenger. Well, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), the Uber driver in the movie Stuber, actually demands a five-star rating from all of his passengers. He’s actually quite intent on getting that five-star rating that he will do just about anything to get that rating from his riders. He goes through the fast food drive through for his passengers, even when they seem a little more than intoxicated. Then, he has to deal with the ramifications of a drunken passenger throwing up all over his leased electric car. But Stu never, in his wild dreams, ever expected that his Uber would get called for a job by LAPD detective Victor “Vic” Manning (Dave Bautista) to go chase down criminals involved with a notorious drug lord named Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais) who recently killed his partner in cold blood.
Speaking of, the movie starts out with detectives Victor Manning and Sarah Morris (Karen Gillan) chasing down the ruthless drug trafficker and cop killer Oka Teijo, who escapes in the crowds of basketball fans leaving the Staples Center, but not before Vic is seen having issues seeing his partner and Sarah catching up to Teijo, only to be shot in close range by him in the confusion and mayhem of the fans running up and down the LA Live complex. The next day, Vic decides to get corrective laser eye surgery so he can finally be able to see. The surgeon tells him that he won’t be able to see clearly for at least a few days and gives him special darkening glasses to wear on his way home. He is driven back home by his daughter Nicole Manning (Natalie Morales), who reminds him that her sculpture show is happening that night, to which Vic promises that wouldn’t miss it for the world. She pulls up the Uber app on Vic’s phone and programs the address of her sculpture show, so this way he has no excuse about not knowing the address, or not being able to see where he’s driving.
Cut to later that afternoon, Vic gets a call from on his informants that Teijo is planning a major drug deal, but the phone dies before Vic could get all of the details from the informant. Vic, still not able to see almost anything, decides to rush out in his car and drive it to the informant. He quickly realizes that he can barely drive the car straight down the road, let alone get on the highway or anything; he ends up quickly crashing his car into a construction zone. Left without a car, Vic remembers the Uber app the his daughter Nicole added to his phone and he requests a ride from the nearest driver, who just happens to be Stu’s Uber (if you haven’t figured it out by now, Stuber stands for Stu’s Uber, and is the name Vic starts calling Stu, just so he can remember his name). Vic flashes a badge at Stu’s Uber just as Stu is pulling up, and he demands to be taken to a certain LA neighborhood. This is where Nanjiani shines, as he riffs his comedic lines into existence. “You can’t just shout out random neighborhoods. That’s not now Uber works,” Stu tells Vic as they get into an argument inside the Uber. “Let me guess, you want me to drive you to all the Sarah Connors in the city?” asks Stu of Vic, as she notices his grizzly size and strange-looking sunglasses – the ones he’s still wearing after corrective laser eye surgery.
At this point, the movie goes down an unnecessarily complicated path, as Stuber director Michael Dowse and writer Tripper Clancy take the duo of Stu and Vic down a rabbit hole, taking them from a factory to a drug dealer’s house, to a male strip club, and then to a veterinary clinic where some animals get involved (but don’t get harmed). They finally intercept Teijo and chase him into a Sriracha bottling factory, where Stu has another hilarious moment. He sees a red phone on the factory wall, as Stu and Vic are hiding from Teijo. He picks up the phone next to him; “Hello, operator, we need help. Someone’s trying to murder us,” just then his voice comes up in the factory speaker. Teijo relegalizes the Stu is using the company’s intercom system and laughs at them. Even at a point where you’d think that Stu and Vic have the upper hand against Teijo, they really don’t. When Stu tries to shoot Teijo, the gun doesn’t shoot, and he throws the gun at him, Teijo catches it, punches Vic with it and throws it back in Stu’s face knocking him out. They are given some unexpected assistance, and eventually do overwhelm Teijo.
The problem with Stuber is not how many laughs Nanjiani or Bautista deliver for their audience – there’s plenty of that – and most of it comes in back and forth scenes between the two. The problem is that Stuber forgets about the character development of everyone else – the bad guys, Vic’s daughter, Stu’s love interest, and other Uber drivers – to satisfy their need for quick jokes, once every minute or two. They kind of hint at the fact the being an Uber driver isn’t easy – most Uber drivers have to put up with many different personalities that make sometimes outrageous demands, just so the drivers can earn the much desired five-star rating. They often work ridiculously long hours, sacrificing any free time them may have had, with family, friends or any show at a love life. The director and writer fail to make the connection between what Stu is going through personally, with the similar backstory that Vic is going through with his own daughter.
Overall, Stuber delivers great ad-lib comedy from the two leads, but little substance in the overly-complicated plot. The thrills are about as exciting as an electric Uber blowing up after rolling down a slight embankment. If you want a summer movie that is absent of any major plot or character development, but does make you chuckle every couple of minutes, then give Stuber a try. For me, it was only worth the two-star ride, thanks to the quick comedic hits, primarily from Kumail Nanjiani.
Review by Vitali Gueron
Have you seen STUBER? Well, what did you think?