Film Review: ‘Stuber’: Kumail Nanjiani as Dave Bautista’s Nagging Wife

By Mark Jackson, Epoch Times
July 9, 2019 Updated: July 9, 2019

R | | Action, Comedy | 12 July 2019 (USA)

Stu + Uber = “Stuber.”

Who’s Stu? Stu’s a narrow-shouldered, effete, meek, mild, polite, fastidious Indian man, living in America (played by Kumail Nanjiani). He works as a retail clerk at a sort of Home Depot and Costco mash-up, but drives an Uber to supplement his income. Stu’s also viciously sarcastic, with world-class, passive-aggressive, comedic timing.

man screaming in Uber car
Kumail Nanjiani plays an Uber driver in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Stuber.” (Twentieth Century Fox/Disney)

Stu has a highly unintelligent, bullying boss who calls him “Stuber.” Stu does not like his boss, or his job. Stu also, unfortunately, doesn’t love his Uber gig because the endless stream of messy, rude people who enter and exit his leased, electric Uber car is constantly putting Stu’s star rating in jeopardy.

Enter Vic

Vic (former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler Dave Bautista) is an enormous, blind cop. Blind? Blind because he just had LASIK eye surgery. But when he hears that a dangerous drug dealer (Iko Uwais) he’s been tailing for a lengthy period of time is on the loose, Vic jumps in his car, runs over a mailbox and a small tree, and lands in a ditch. Vic must therefore call an Uber.

two men in a car
Dave Bautista (L) and Kumail Nanjiani in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Stuber.” (Twentieth Century Fox/Disney)

So “Stuber” is kind of buddy-cop movie combined and an odd-couple movie: a cop reluctantly teaming up with a regular Joe, like “Rush Hour” and “48 Hrs.” Vic’s a bull in a china shop, and Stu’s an Indian version of  Tony Randall from “The Odd Couple,” except upgraded with millennial-speak and 2019 potent sarcasm, and lots of man-screaming (because Vic does dangerous things).

Vic and Stu’s Excellent Adventure

So, we already talked about Vic’s LASIK, but I didn’t mention that Vic scheduled his LASIK appointment on the same day as an art-gallery sculpture debut by his estranged daughter (Natalie Morales). So Vic should attend that, but he’d rather chase his drug-dealing perp. This kind of thing is, of course, the reason they’re estranged.

two men fighting
Iko Uwais (L) and Dave Bautista in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Stuber.” (Twentieth Century Fox/Disney)

Now Stu, years before, managed to friend-zone himself with Becca (Betty Gilpin), the love of his life. But he never told her how he felt, so she started dating a famous athlete, who then dumped her. Now she’s depressed and needs comforting; this is Stu’s chance. He desperately needs to drive over to Becca’s and say nice things.

But then rude, messy Vic gets in his car. As mentioned, Vic, after blindly landing in the ditch, has to use the Uber app that his daughter installed on his phone for him.

Dave Bautista, the former WWE wrestler who plays the character of Drax the Destroyer in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, is a little bit of a poor man’s Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock—that other former WWE wrestler turned actor.

Dave’s not as funny as Dwayne. He’s got potential, but his talent hasn’t blossomed yet. All that highly predictable flattening of small trees and running into ditches—Bautista can’t really make it work. This movie would have hit the stratosphere had the exceedingly funny Rock teamed up with Kumail Nanjiani, because Kumail Nanjiani is a very, very funny man. But Dave might eventually catch up to Dwayne.

All in All

“Stuber” is basically a 93-minute commercial for Uber, and as such, it’s rather entertaining. It has loads of cartoon-y hyperviolence, but it’s really the comedic chemistry of Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani that charges this movie, in the same way electricity charges Stu’s Uber car.

It’s Vic’s hypermachismo, hulking muscle, and stoicism being constantly at odds with Stu’s … well, let me see—how would I describe Stu? He sort of uses the so-called gay voice, but he’s not gay. But his sarcasm and observational “read-out” ability, combined with a talent for verbally dressing-down opponents might also appear to derive from gay culture. So where does this not-exactly-effeminate, not-exactly-gay character come from?

Three men fighting
(L–R) Kumail Nanjiani, Rene Moran (lying down), and Dave Bautista in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Stuber.” (Twentieth Century Fox/Disney)

He’s not exactly a weak man. He has no problem whatsoever speaking his mind, even knowing his larger cohort might pound him to smithereens (which is great for supplying an endless stream of conflict). He can stand up to Vic verbally any day; he gives Vic a piece of his mind at a moment’s notice. He does have problems telling Becca he loves her. OK, here it is: Stu sometimes functions as Vic’s nagging wife.

And so this persona conflict between the two naturally progresses to their becoming friends. Chasing a death-dealing drug dealer, with shoot-em-ups, car chases, and the bleeding and puking that accompany all that, will make all involved feel like they went through a war together, and this is always very bonding for the menfolk.

Stu, meet Vic.

two men driving
Dave Bautista (L) and Kumail Nanjiani in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Stuber.” (Twentieth Century Fox/Disney)

Director: Michael Dowse
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Release Date: July 12
Rated: 3 stars out of 5

Follow Mark on Twitter: @FilmCriticEpoch