s someone who relies on Uber to get around, I can attest that plenty of odd things happen while on those rides. Whether enduring the odd — from smelling fragrant snacks and hearing foreign-language conversations of my fellow Uber pool passengers to the maddening inability of the majority of drivers to communicate with even a modicum of English, I’ve long thought that there could be a hilarious movie to be made about the Uber experience.
That film has arrived.
“Stuber” stars the highly unlikely but utterly terrific odd couple combo of former pro wrestler turned actor Dave Bautista of “Guardians of the Galaxy” fame, and rising star Kumail Nanjiani, who starred in the biggest indie hit of 2018 and scored an Oscar nomination for co-writing the movie “The Big Sick.” They make a winning pair in what should be a huge hit that could well become a modern action-comedy classic along the lines of “Lethal Weapon.”
The movie’s title refers to the title character, a Pakistani-American sporting goods store clerk named Stu who is broke and forced to drive for Uber the second he’s off work. His obnoxious jerk of a boss thus calls him Stuber, and the good-natured but put-upon Stu also can’t seem to work up the nerve to declare his love for the girl of his dreams or know how to say no when she asks him to co-sign the business loan for her spin-cycle gym for women called Spinster.
Stu’s minding his business on another aimless evening when he gets a ride order from Vic (Bautista), a burly undercover cop who’s trying to race to two disparate destinations. First, he’s received word that a heroin dealer named Teijo (Iko Uwais) that he’s been trying to bring down for years is doing a major drug deal that night and he wants to be there to bust him. Second, his daughter has an important showing of her sculptures at her art gallery the same night and he’s promised to be there no matter what.
Complicating things further is the fact that Vic just had laser surgery on his eyes and is going to be blind for the next 12 hours as he recovers. After he hilariously crashes his car while attempting to drive anyway, he calls an Uber for the first time in his life. Stu shows up and an insane night of personal and professional misadventures begins. Turns out Stu has an agenda of his own: the girl he loves has finally realized she wants to have sex with him, and he’s determined to make it to her no matter what happens with Vic.
“Stuber” is a genuinely entertaining and inventive throwback to the great buddy-cop comedies of the 1980s, while layering in hilarious twists in the details of the film throughout. One prime example occurs when Stu shoots a bad guy in the leg and freaks out, begging Vic to take the villain to a hospital. Vic winds up leading him to an animal hospital because he’s taken possession of the criminal’s dog since it was force-fed heroin packets as a means of hiding them and the criminal “is an animal anyway.”
Other improbable locales include a shootout in a hot sauce factory and an interrogation at a strip club that turns out to have male strippers, along with clientele who keep trying to stuff dollar bills down Vic’s clothing as he storms through the club. Both Vic and Stu need to learn various aspects of being a man, as Vic realizes he’s been a terrible father and Stu decides he’s done being a doormat for everyone around him.
The increasing emotional sensitivity of the ass-whooping Vic and the slow-burning fury of the mild-mannered Stu results in hilarious banter throughout and surprising actions from each character as they evolve along the way. Director Michael Dowse made a splash back in 2011 with the indie cult classic comedy “Goon” — about a slow-witted bouncer who becomes a semi-pro hockey star because of his sheer willingness to beat the tar out of his opponents — and he utilizes his gift for combining bruising action and outrageous comedy throughout here.
Nanjiani steps up to the plate and hits a home run as Stu, in a role that with any justice will make him a very big star after a lengthy career in excellent supporting roles. Bautista also builds off his “Guardians” turn as he applies the same gentle giant mode as Drax half the time and full-on Schwarzenegger-style action heroics the other half.
The only slight downside to this wildly entertaining movie — easily the funniest film so far this year — is that the action scenes in a couple of places, including the opening of the film, are too violently jarring. But anytime it seems that “Stuber” might be losing its sense of direction, its sense of humor keeps it on course.