While the latest milking of the Fast & Furious franchise opened to nearly $200-million globally, an unheralded buddy-comedy came and went earlier in the summer. The genre has been run dry over the years so it has to be done right in order to succeed and, even when it is, sometimes that’s still not enough. Stuber may not be the next Rush Hour but it’s one of the funnier movies from this year and certainly better than people gave it credit for.
The title is obviously tongue-in-cheek but it definitely didn’t help this movie’s stock and playing to the low-brow humor set the whole thing off on the wrong foot. Director Michael Dowse (Goon, Take Me Home Tonight) steered this in the right direction and put together a pretty good buddy-cop comedy. He got good performances from his actors and wasn’t shy about the R-rating when it came to the action. The script by Tripper Clancy did remind me of Rush Hour quite a bit, just with a much harder edge. He doesn’t exactly have a strong or elaborate resume but the dialogue showed potential. There are themes in the foreground about what it means to be a man and the effects of toxic masculinity and where those things meet. In this case, they happen to clash in the middle of an intense police investigation. With all movies like this, they tend to follow a fairly predictable path so it’s really about how you get where you’re going, rather than the destination. The journey was enjoyable, if not truly believable, but the lack of a proven box-office commodity surely turned some potential viewers away.
Regardless of drawing power, Kumail Nanjiani and Bautista were very funny together. They had strong working chemistry and their comedic styles, along with their physical statures, complemented one another. It seemed like some of the dialogue may have been improvised, at least when it came to delivering certain punchlines. Nanjiani has been sharpening his timing and delivery for a while now and has had quite a bit of comedic success already, so it’s no surprise to see him shine there. Bautista, on the other hand, has slowly learned to utilize humor in a way that works for him. Obviously, Clancy’s script set him up for a large part of the success but the former WWE star’s deadpan delivery worked particularly well while playing aggressive detective Vic Manning. The pair is absolutely the film’s strongest asset despite lacking “star power” in the conventional sense.
This was much more of an action flick than I had anticipated and the camera work was needlessly erratic during the fight sequences. The idea is to make those scenes feel more chaotic by having the camera jostle around just as much as the actors, much like we saw in the Bourne franchise films. However, for the purposes of this film, it drowned out the details so much that you can’t really tell what’s going on anyway. Aside from that, the action was right in line with what you’d expect from a generic mid-90s action movie…maybe even a bit more deliberate with the violence.
Maybe it’s just my personal preference but I was in when I saw the trailer. No lofty expectations, no real preconceived notions. Just two actors, who I like and have seen be funny in other projects I have enjoyed, working together on a simple premise. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make a movie work…it’s not rocket science. I can understand why certain folks may have passed on this one and it’s ok but I think more people would enjoy it if they were able to digest it on more comfortable terms.
Recommendation: If you like buddy-cop films, this was a pretty decent one. It’s far from amazing and I doubt it’s going to have a significant footprint down the road. However, it is very 2019 and that’s totally okay.