It’s only been a week or two since we had the release of the new Shaft film. A film whose take on masculinity was reductive and backwards. Well now we have a new action comedy in Stuber who thankfully are coming with the opposite message.
Stuber sees Uber driver Stu (hence the awful name) pick up cop Vic who has just undergone laser eye surgery so cannot see. Vic then force Stu into join his hunt for a drug trafficker that Vic has a bad history with. It takes the typical buddy comedy approach of pairing two very different characters together with Vic being a tough, closed off, work focused man with a strained relationship with his daughter. Stu however is a bit of a pushover, desperate to appease his annoying and mean boss, and his best friend Becca who he’s secretly in love with. It’s a fairly typical story where the two help one another grow as people, with Vic learning to connect and become more open with others, particularly his daughter, and Stu starting to stand up for himself a little more.
And these character’s arcs work mainly through the chemistry of Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista in the lead roles. Nanjiani is an absolutely brilliant comedian. He has such incredible comic delivery that he can elevate even some of the weaker jokes in the film to being funny. He is also a brilliant foil for Bautista’s more deadpan straight man performance. In films like Guardians of the Galaxy Bautista has shown brilliant comedic sensibilities, but here he adds another string to his bow. He’s not the one to be cracking jokes through the film, but he’s still funny. He also brings many of the heartfelt moments in Stuber, and to see toxic masculinity being deconstructed by someone like Bautista is a powerful message.
But I feel as though the comedic talents of the pair are helping drag Stuber up a fair amount, and even then there are plenty of jokes that don’t land. The action is also a bit of a mixed bag. I can’t help but be disappointed that such a talented actor and martial artist like Iko Uwais just doesn’t get enough of a chance to show off what he can do as villain Oka Teijo. When you get Uwais in your film you really need to use him to the best of his ability, and despite a couple of flashes Stuber just doesn’t. As a crime film goes, the story isn’t great. It’s all fairly standard stuff, serving more as a vehicle for the comedy than anything else.
Honestly after seeing Shaft and Stuber virtually back to back I’m certainly more inclined to like and support Stuber. It’s out here promoting more healthy versions of masculinity. I also really enjoyed the pairing of Nanjiani and Bautista, and would love to see them collaborate again in the future in something a little more consistent than Stuber.