Saturday, August 24, 2019

It Came From The Cineplex: Stuber

Stuber was written by Tripper Clancy and directed by Michael Dowse.

Clancy previously wrote the German comedy Hot Dog 
(?), and that's pretty much it. Dowse previously directed a bunch of indy films (I presume) that you've never heard of, including Fubar, Fubar: Balls To The Wall, Take Me Home Tonight, Goon and What If.

Stuber's a mildly amusing action comedy reminiscent of old school buddy cop movies the kind you don't see much anymore these days. Even though the film's reasonably entertaining, it's immediately forgettable. In fact you'll find it fading from your memory by the time you walk out to the parking lot.

The big selling point here is the interplay between stars Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani. They have an easy chemistry that's fun to watch, and they're the only real highlight of the film. The two of them act their asses off here, but unfortunately the script just doesn't give them a lot to work with.

So far the film's grossed a weak $31 million against its $16 million budget. Due to marketing and other hidden costs, these days movies need to make about twice their production budget just to break even. That puts Stuber at the edge of  the "Disappointing Underperformer" category.


The Plot:
LAPD Detective Vic Manning (played by Dave Bautista) and his partner Sara Morris (played by Karen Gillan) track murderous drug lord Oka Tedjo to his penthouse hideout. There's an intense shootout, in which Vic loses his glasses, leaving him virtually blind.

Sara takes off after Tedjo, as Vic stumbles along behind as best he can. Unfortunately Sara's killed by Tedjo, who manages to get away. Vic cradles Sara's lifeless body in his arms, asking the heavens why and blaming himself and his faulty eyes for her death.

Six months later, Vic's obsessed with bringing Tedjo to justice. His captain, Angie McHenry, (played by Mira Sorvino) tells him to forget it and take some time off. Meanwhile, his daughter Nichole (played by Natalie Morales of Parks & Rec fame) talks him into getting Lasik surgery. After the treatment, he has to wear special goggles as 
his vision will be blurry for twenty four hours. I smell a wacky situation coming up!

Vic gets a tip from his informant Leon, who tells him Tedjo's planning a big drug deal at a local warehouse. Vic tries to drive to the location, but can't see and crashes his car. He orders an Uber, and is picked up by a driver named Stu (who apparently has no last name, and is played by Kumail Nanjiani). 

Stu works at a sporting goods store, but drives an Uber on the side to make enough money to invest in his friend Becca's spin gym. Stu's deeply in love with Becca, but is too terrified to tell her how he feels, and has been heavily friend-zoned by her.

Stu drives Vic to the warehouse, where they find Leon's been murdered. A drunk Becca calls Stu and says she found out her boyfriend cheated on her, and says she wants him to come over. Stu sees this as his big chance, but Vic forces him to keep driving around town as he investigates Leon's death and looks for Tedjo.

They arrive at a house in a shady part of town, where he arrests a drug dealer named Amo. He tosses him in the back of the Uber and gives his gun to Stu, telling him to keep an eye on the perp. At first Amo thinks Stu is Vic's partner, but quickly realizes he's just an everyday schmo. He tries to escape, and Stu accidentally shoots him in the leg.

Vic has Stu take them to a veterinarian who'll treat Amo's leg without asking any questions. While there, a group of Tedjo's men appear (never mind how they found them) and a big shootout ensues. Vic fires wildly at the goons and manages to kill them all, despite the fact that he still can't see. Vic picks up one of the goon's phones, and sends a fake text saying they successfully killed him. In a surprise twist, the text goes to McHenry, who's secretly working for Tedjo. Gasp!

Vic forces Stu to take him to Nichole's art show, where he ends up making a fool out of himself by faking an interest in her work. Stu tells Natalie about his terrifying day with Vic, and the two hit it off. Vic gives Nichole a gun for protection, and she tells him to get out.

Vic says he needs another gun, so Stu takes him to the sporting goods store where he works. While there, Vic grabs virtually every weapon inside. Stu finally puts his foot down and calls Vic a caveman, and accuses him of being emotionally distant toward his daughter Nichole. Vic counters by saying Stu's a wuss for not telling Becca how he really feels about her. 

The two then have a massive fight, destroying the store in the process. In true Buddy Cop Movie fashion, once they beat the crap out of one another they reach an understanding and become closer than ever. Just then Stu's boss Richie shows up and makes fun of him. Stu uses his newfound confidence to tell him he's a jerk and quits.

Vic finds out Tedjo's at a storage yard, and he and Stu head there to capture him. Vic calls McHenry for backup, unaware she's working for Tedjo. McHenry's shocked to find out Vic's still alive, and makes plans to kill him. Stu picks this moment to call Becca and tell her his true feelings for her, but says he's tired of being unappreciated and says they shouldn't see each other anymore. You go, boy!

McHenry arrives & tries to kill Vic, but Stu rams his car into her, pinning her to a wall. Tedjo and his men spot Vic & Stu, and there's another big action setpiece. Stu calls a squad of Uber drivers, hoping Tedjo will think they're police backup. Unfortunately they don't buy it and his gambit fails. Stu's eyesight returns just in time for him to have a hand to hand battle with Tedjo.

Nichole shows up for some reason, and shoots Tedjo just as he's about to kill Vic. Tedjo shoots at Nichole, but Stu leaps in front of her and takes the bullet himself. Enraged, Vic begins strangling Tedjo. Nichole stops him before he can kill him, right as the police arrive.

In the hospital, Vic gives Stu a five star Uber rating. He then thanks Stu for saving Nichole's life, which brings him to tears for the first time in years.

Cut to Xmas, as Vic goes to Nichole's house for dinner. She and Stu answer the door and announce they're now dating. Vic's left stunned and speechless.


• There's not a lot to say about this film, so this'll be brief. I know I say that a lot around here, but this time I mean it.

• In case you're wondering what the hell the movie's title means, it's a combination of Stu's name and "Uber." Put 'em together and you get "Stuber." Haw, I guess?

Stuber is the first R-rated movie produced by 20th Century Fox since it was assimilated by the Borg, er, I mean acquired by Disney.

This isn't the first time Disney's released an R-rated film. Back in 1984, Disney acquired Touchstone Pictures, and used the studio as sort of a front to release a slate of R-rated movies. Among them were Ruthless People, D.O.A., Pretty Woman, When A Man Loves A Woman, Con Air, Starship Troopers, Snake Eyes and Enemy Of The State.

• In the opening scene, Vic Manning and Sara Morris are partners. They're played respectively by Dave Bautista and Karen Gillan. The two are no strangers to working together, as they starred as Drax and Nebula in several Marvel films, including Guardians Of The Galaxy, Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

• For the past few months I've been ranting about the sad state of the movie posters currently infesting the nation's cinplexes. Stuber's a prime example of this trend, as it features what may be the absolute laziest poster I've ever seen in my life. 

The designer literally just took a bland screen shot from the movie, typed the title at the bottom in a condensed font and called it a day. The only way they could have put less effort into it is if they took a blank sheet of note paper, grabbed a Sharpie and drew a couple of stick men on it.

There's a little-seen poster out there that's wayyyyy better. Sure, it's a typical Photoshop montage, but at least there was an attempt at creating a design here, unlike the official poster.

• If nothing else, Stuber features some fun examples of setup and payoff.

When Stu finds out that Vic's a cop, he asks if he's ever taken a bullet for someone. Vic is dumbfounded, and asks, "You think by the time a gun is fired, that you can jump in front of a bullet?" Stu says, "Now I'm starting to question it." Vic goes on to say, "I bet you're also wondering if I ever walked in front of a big explosion and not looked over my shoulder. Or shot out the tires on a car speeding towards me."

Note that every one of these scenarios happens in the third act! During a big action setpiece, Stu accidentally blows up a car filled with Tedjo's goons. Both he and Vic are facing away from the car as it explodes. A bit later Vic attempts to shoot out the tires of another car full of Tedjo's men, but fails.

Finally, Tedjo shoots at Natalie, but at the last second Stu somehow manages to jump in front of her and take the bullet himself (!).

I love it when a film sets up events that pay off at the end of the film. It's a great way to keep the audience engaged in the action, and you would be amazed at how rarely it happens these days. It appears they stopped teaching setup and payoff in film school.

• Apparently everyone in the world of this film is secretly working for Tedjo. Every time Vic talks with a hotel clerk or backstage manager, they'll wait till he leaves and then glance around suspiciously as they get on the horn and inform Tedjo that he's coming.

• At one point Vic threatens to arrest Stu if he doesn't keep driving him around:

Stu: "Oh, a white cop dragging around a brown man, that'll look great."
Vic: "I'm not white."
Stu: "You're not white? What are you? Puerto Rican? Mexican? Libyan? Chilean! Chi... you're not Chinese."
Vic: "I'm the racist one?"
Stu: "You look like if all the ugly people in every race f*cked."

For the record, Dave Bautista is half Greek, half Filipino. If we assume Vic is the same, I guess that would make him Asian.

• Vic takes Amo to a veterinarian to get his leg patched up. Tedjo's men show up, and there's an intense shootout in which Vic kills them all. As the last of Tedjo's goons die, a flock of white doves flies into the air.

I'm assuming this is a nod to director John Woo, who often films scenes of white doves flying across the screen during big action setpieces.

Stuber's a lackluster action comedy that's short on both thrills and yuks. It's a mildly entertaining but ultimately forgettable little picture that's guaranteed to start vanishing from your mind by the time the credits end. The two leads have a fun chemistry together, but sadly their efforts just aren't enough to save the film. I give it a C.

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