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Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista, stars of STUBER, are now best friends. You know this by the way Nanjiani cheered Bautista on lustily during his brief return to the WWE in the spring. You may have also noticed the several articles that have popped up on social media insisting on this reality.

Now I cannot say if these two co-stars are now best friends or not. I hope so. I think that would be great. What I can comment on, though, is if they made a good movie together.

Stuber: Vic and Stu
Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani discuss the principles of mismatched buddy comedies as they shoot STUBER. (Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)

The Idea Behind STUBER

Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) works for a sporting goods store as many hours as they can give him and ubers during his time off. Hence why he has to endure the nickname Stuber from his horrible, entitled boss, the owner’s son Richie (Jimmy Tatro). He is sure it will all be worth it though because it is helping his friend — and unwitting crush — Becca (Betty Gilpin) open the cycling gym of her dreams.

Detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) is leading a very different, but similarly lonely and unfulfilling life in the same city. Since failing to bring Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais) to justice six months earlier, he has seemingly done nothing but obsess about the case. Alas, it has failed to bring a resolution and his superior Angie McHenry (Mira Sorvino) tells him the FBI is taking over. To make matters worse, he largely has to accept the news. He is about to be out of commission due to his eye surgery and his daughter Nicole’s (Natalie Morales) upcoming art show.

However, when he gets a fresh tip on a huge drug shipment sure to involve Tedjo, he ignores all protocol and good sense. After a failed attempt to drive his own car, he orders an Uber. When it arrives, driven by Stu, of course, Manning conscripts the sporting goods salesman. Shoot outs, a visit to a male strip club, an invitation to a drunken hookup, betrayals, an art show, and the rescuing of a dog all ensue over the course of the next 12 hours.

Stuber: Tedjo and Vic
Iko Uwais and Dave Bautista get physical in a scene from STUBER. (Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)

Writing STUBER

Tripper Clancy’s first English language script gives itself a lot of ground to cover over its 93-minute running time. It is a credit to him then that the movie rarely feels frantic or discombobulated. On the other hand, despite being just over 90 minutes, it still feels slack at points. And that is despite all the running around.

Nanjiani and Bautista do have good on-screen chemistry, perhaps to go with off-screen friendship. However, their interactions are ALL chemistry. What laughs come are pushed over the line by their sheer effort. This is not a script that will make you chuckle on the page.

The script also struggles to give its women — Morales, Gilpin, and Sorvino — much by way of personality or things to do. Gilpin fares the worst by far in terms of screentime and depth. Morales gets a decent amount to do but its tragic to give such an effective comedic actress so few laugh lines. Sorvino is not around much but she arguably has the biggest role in terms of plot and Clancy seems to have the best hold of how to realize her on the page.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the above, the movie also has a queasy bit of friendzone humor. In the end it sort of redeems itself with Stu’s realization of what he has done to himself and Becca. Until then though, it is liable to leave you queasy especially given all the incel manifestos and nonsense we have all been exposed to as of late.

Stuber himself
Kumail Nanjiani races to outrun the summer’s disappointing box office receipts during a moment from STUBER. (Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)

Casting the Leads of STUBER

As noted above, Bautista and Nanjiani have excellent chemistry on-screen. In addition to the dialogue, they both turn in some impressive physical work. It may not come as a surprise with Bautista. That said, the way he utilizes his skills to make Manning a messy kind of strong as opposed to an incredible physical specimen deserves notice. However, Nanjiani sells stunts and pratfalls very well. There is a protracted fight scene between the two in which, given camera angle and placement, Nanjiani clearly is having to sell his own spots, not a double, and he does so. That’s even more impressive when you consider some of them involve him hurting the significantly larger Bautista.

When Bautista is on his own, it allows us to continue to appreciate the actor he has become. He is not the charisma bomb that, say, Dwayne Johnson is. In some ways though that allows him to do more on-screen. His rumpled, unpleasant, but still genuinely decent Manning is not an easy character to pull off without either making him too terrible or too easy to like.

Nanjiani, saddled with the “friendzone” nonsense, has a bit of a tougher time with the material. Knowing who he is in real life makes it difficult to watch embody this stereotype of a “nice guy”. When the movie is not requiring him to play that part though, he remains a welcome on-screen presence.

Casting the Rest of the Callsheet

To reiterate, women do not do well here. Sorvino gets the widest range as Manning’s supervisor. It is genuinely nice to see her back on the big screen. She had stronger roles in bigger projects prior to being yet another survivor of how horrible men can be, but it still feels good to have her acting again.

Morales, as noted, is game but the script gives her almost nothing to work with. Only the film’s final scene hints at how comedically gifted she is.

Gilpin…oof…a combination of bad lines and existed almost entirely as a Facetime image make it impossible to breathe life into a very shallow role.

Jimmy Tatro, though, proves his AMERICAN VANDAL work was no fluke. His turn from awful boss to sad lonely guy is lightning fast but he sells it. The role is small and flat but he rides it for all it is worth.

Stuber: Stu and Vic
Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani practice the relaxation technique known as car wash screaming during a scene from STUBER. (Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)

That’s a Wrap

STUBER has laughs and some violent thrills, but features a lot of missed opportunities. Considering the level of talent of the players and the on-screen chemistry, this one feels like it really could have been something special with stronger writing and directing.

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