Stuber film review: The best Uber commercial ever made

Dave Bautista as Vic, Pico the Pibble, and Kumail Nanjiani as Stu in “Stuber.”
Dave Bautista as Vic, Pico the Pibble, and Kumail Nanjiani as Stu in “Stuber.” /

Starring The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista, Stuber presents itself as a high-octane action-comedy full of thrills, explosions, and car chases – all set inside an Uber.

The internet has gone from a neat novelty concept used by people to waste time, to…practically still the same thing, but with the added bonus of the world-wide web taking over the job market in big ways. Gone are the days of video stores, small grocery stores, and big theater nights being the cool thing to do.

Now, everything is online: jobs, schoolwork, news, entertainment, you name it. The internet is what we revolve our lives around and it has its ups-and-downs. Some may argue negatively against the internet, claiming it to be a poison on the minds of people who use it as a means to distract themselves from their own lives.

This may be a true to a degree for some, but the internet has also opened the floodgates for people to gradually take charge of their own careers with increasingly independent and remote jobs over the internet. Hell, my job of writing this review out is a result of the internet boom taking full control of the entertainment market.

But one of the most notable examples has to be Uber, the rideshare program that has taken the internet and world by storm. Now, instead of having to wait for a taxi and praying that it stops to pick you up, you can just download the Uber app and have someone come to you specifically to be your own casual taxi. You can have them take you anywhere you want and for Dave Bautista’s Detective Vic in Stuber, this rule is taken full advantage of.

Stuber, an unfortunate casualty in the marketing department thanks to the Disney-Fox merger, is very much the kind of film you can see being more of a product made to sell something than a film with something to say.

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With Uber essentially being the main character AND setting, Stuber comes across like a long and experimental commercial for the rideshare app and on most occasions, this blatant use of product placement could come across as annoying and without purpose.

However, Stuber goes relatively above-and-beyond to establish a cinematic identity to compliment its product-heavy action-comedy. With interesting set pieces that are sure to resonate well with Californian audiences, a modern premise that may do well with low-income audiences, and enough action to make a Jason Statham film blush, Stuber may have more up its sleeves than most critics think.

Anything for a 5-star ride

Stuber starts off about as clichéd as you would expect from a story about a grizzled police detective hunting down a drug kingpin: a mission gone wrong that ends with the death of Detective Vic’s partner (Karen Gillan in a cameo) at the hands of notorious drug lord, Teijo (The Raid’s Iko Uwais).

From there, Vic is determined to avenge his partner by catching the elusive Teijo, only to run into another unexpected roadblock: lasik eye surgery that prevents him from driving or being exposed to too much sun, which happens to coincide on the day that Teijo is in town.

Of course, Uber is there to save the day as Vic employs the services of the insecure and mild-mannered Uber driver, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), to drive him all around California to help him catch Teijo. Any other Uber driver would be quick to decline and go off their merry way, but Stu is caught in a bind with increasing his Uber rating to impress the love of his life, Becca (GLOW‘s Betty Gilpin), leading to a borderline parody version of Collateral that equals to the craziest rideshare story ever told on screen.

Dave Bautista as Vic and Kumail Nanjiani as Stu in “Stuber.”
Dave Bautista as Vic and Kumail Nanjiani as Stu in “Stuber.” /

The conflicting interests of Stu and Vic make for a classic mis-matched buddy comedy as Vic is hell-bent on catching Teijo despite his physical limitations while Stu is looking at this adventure from both an economical and romantic standpoint: higher ratings mean a chance at making more money and possibly winning over his love interest.

The interests in Stuber collide in surprisingly effective ways that bring to question what exactly makes someone a “man” and the difference between confidence and aggressive bravado.

Vic is very confident of his own strengths, but it comes at the expense of embracing his feelings in more subtle ways. Stu is the definition of a push-over, regularly being bullied and teased by Vic for his insecurities. The casting elevates this atmosphere, with Dave Bautista embracing his roots as a professional wrestler to portray an aggressive and unhinged detective.

Meanwhile Kumail Nanjiani tones down his real-life sharp-as-a-knife wit to play the meager Stu, who is a lot of bark, but still needs work on his bite. It is not fully explored, but it does open up a conversation to be had after the movie is over.

A 2019 job horror story

Perhaps where Bautista and Nanjiani, as well as Stuber in general, thrive the most is their interaction with their Californian setting. While the idea of an Uber driver getting caught in a major drug case is perhaps a little too over-the-top, the idea of a lower-middle class person of color in America doing whatever it takes to please his customers to maintain a high Uber rating is very indicative of the harsh job climate in modern-day America.

Stu endures moments of casual racism, ranging from insensitive reviews of his driving services to the many white passengers dismissing and disrespecting his kindness towards them with an almost-sickening glee.

The Californian setting of Stuber helps drive this point of economic struggle home with its surprisingly versatile amount of set pieces, ranging from a small all-male strip club to a strip mall veterinarian and several other sets that give a small slice of Californian life, which Stu and Vic traverse and interact with a sense of casualness that fully immerses them as two peas in a giant pot of a low-income and grassroots job world that’s just getting by however they can.

These situations seem very outrageous and Stu even humorously comments on the insane nature of the rideshare he’s on at the moment, but Stuber above all else nails the insanely strange status of low-income American work culture and it was pleasant to see Stu and Vic traverse this environment with a lack of cynical judgment.

Hell, the male strip club could’ve been used to tell some tasteless jokes, but instead Stuber treats it as a moment of plot and character progression, particularly with Stu as he professes his love for Becca to a kind and caring stripper keen on giving him pointers on what he should do to win her over.

Stu and Vic are on the same wavelengths as their ever-changing environment, which simultaneously highlights the working life of low-income workers and acts as ways to develop the characters into fully realized people to root for.

Kumail Nanjiani as Stu, Dave Bautista as Vic, and Pico the Pibble in “Stuber.”
Kumail Nanjiani as Stu, Dave Bautista as Vic, and Pico the Pibble in “Stuber.” /

The absurdity of bravado

Stuber is not without its flaws, specifically with the lifeless nature of many of the action sequences. There are some sparks of creativity, mainly with a hilarious slapstick sequence in a sporting goods store, but the film treats its action as though it came out of any B-grade action flick with only minor doses of self-awareness.

It contrasts heavily with the script’s focus on toxic masculinity and the negative repercussions it has on Vic’s home life. The writing implies one thing while the action implies something else.

It’s a shame since Stuber‘s funniest sequence is a hilarious lens into the comical absurdity of stereotypical masculinity. The film is well-aware of how ridiculous Vic looks with his typical “big guy” attitude, fighting through his lasik limitations to catch Teijo, only for his incompetence and lack of self-awareness to make him look like a bumbling idiot despite his very real skills as a detective.

All the manliness in the world can’t save him from looking a guy who doesn’t understand the basic core of social skills and feeling feelings.

Stuber pokes fun at this idea by taking aspects of his tragic backstory and turning it for both a hearty laugh and a look into an abusive childhood that he fails to see for what it is. Combine that with Stu’s own confidence boost as the film progresses and we get a “man up” story told through the use of clever street smarts and the very attack on stereotypical masculinity. When an interrogation sequence involves the use of Ryan Gosling’s reputation, you know you’re not in for a totally by-the-numbers buddy comedy.

Again, this concept definitely needed a bit more fine-tuning and some of the film’s end resolutions leave a lot to be desired and pondered, but Stuber makes up for its faults with an otherwise sharp script, two hilarious performances from Bautista and Nanjiani, and a finger-on-the-pulse level of commentary on American work culture that coincides with a genuinely entertaining action-comedy that is worth a revisit in the cinema.

It’s not a 5 star ride, but it doesn’t need to be in order to give it a shot either way.

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Final Verdict: 7/10

What did you think of Stuber? Yay or nay? What’s the craziest Uber story you have? Sound off below!

Stuber is in theaters now.