2019 has been a shockingly weak year for movies. While doing my Cinematic Century project here I’ve really learned how Hollywood can have very strange ebbs and flows where one year will be an extravaganza of amazing and seminal films, while the next year will be almost completely bereft of memorable films. And, so far, that’s kind of what we’re getting. 2018 was a truly remarkable year for movies, presenting a cavalcade of amazing movies that we’ll almost certainly be talking about for decades to come, and weirdly, 2019 just hasn’t had that. There’s been some good stuff, but not much too special. And, after such a lackluster summer that has been jam-packed of forgetful attempted blockbusters, remakes, sequels, and failed franchise starters, I’ve reached the point where I really just am craving something decent. It doesn’t even have to be a great movie, just something that’s competently made and doesn’t actively make me regret going to the theater, which has shockingly been a tall order this summer. Enter Stuber, a movie that I really wasn’t expecting much from. The trailers looked decent, the premise was a little fun, and the two lead actors had decent charisma. And you know what? It’s kind of fun. It’s not earth-shattering, and it’ll probably be forgotten, but it was a decent time at the movies.
Stuber follows a gruff LAPD detective named Vic Manning over the course of one day where the tries to finally track down a powerful drug trafficker known as Oka Teijo, who months ago killed his partner. Vic has been trying to let go of Teijo, and was supposed to be recuperating after LASIK surgery that morning, but when he gets a call from an insider in Teijo’s organization he knows he has to track him down. But, since he can’t see he decides to call an Uber to take him around the city, which is how he meets a man named Stu. Stu is not having a good day, he works a dead-end job while driving for Uber in his spare time and is caught in a cliche’d unreciprocated love affair with a woman he’s best friends with, and was hoping for a slow day, only to get sucked into Vic’s madness. Stu really doesn’t want any part in helping Vic travel around the city, but he’s also desperate for a good rating, which Vic holds over his head as they travel around Los Angeles, tracking down Teijo and his organization.
Eventually this brings them into a massive fire-fight with some of Teijo’s men, dragging Stu too far into the mission to just leave. And, in the midst of the fire-fight Vic realizes that the criminals are aware of his daughter Nicole, who has an art-show that night that he’s supposed to attend. They go to protect Nicole, but Vic is unable to put aside his macho images of masculinity, and isn’t able to admit his fear for his daughter, getting into a big fight with Stu where they yell about their feelings while essentially robbing Stu’s day-job of guns and ammo so they can storm Teijo’s drug drop. However, this turns out to be a massive trick on Vic, because his superior officer is actually a dirty cop who works with Teijo, and she’s planning on setting Vic up for murder to get him off their trail. But, Stu is able to save Vic, and the two are put into a fight with Teijo, which eventually involves Nicole who has come to figure out what’s going on with her dad. Stu takes a bullet for Nicole, Vic defeats Teijo, and they all go recuperate from the various injuries they acquired during this insane day.
Stuber really isn’t anything too special. It’s a good time, I enjoyed myself, and I was legitimately surprised at how much fun I had watching it. I’ve recommended people check it out, even if it’s through rentals after it leaves theaters, because it actually is worth checking out if you’re in the mood for it. It’s a dumb buddy cop action movie melded with a fish out of water comedy, and it really just becomes a fun time at the movies. It’s not based on anything, it’s not a remake, and it’s not even really aping anything too much. It’s just a fun, original idea, and I really doubt we’re going to be getting movies like this in the theaters much longer, so I kind of relished the chance to check it out. It’s a decent movie, albeit kind of saddled with a whole bunch of cliched ideas, which is almost entirely lifted up by the shocking charisma of its two leads. I’ve been a fan of Kumail Nanjiani’s comedy for a while, and really came to appreciate him as an actor a couple years ago with the Big Sick, and Dave Bautista has shockingly become one of my favorite action/comedy actors of the last few years, putting in a series of tremendous performances. And, they really work well together in this film, tossing off a never-ending stream of insults and jabs, just like you’d expect from a movie like this.
Because, this really is a familiar film. Yeah, it has a lot in common with Michael Mann’s Collateral, but just on a purely surface level. What the movie really is is a throwback to 1980’s buddy action comedies, something that really doesn’t exist that much anymore. Movies like Midnight Run, 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, and countless others used to be surefire box-office success in the 1980’s. Pair a comedy star and an action star together to make a decent action movie that was funny as well, usually with the comedy guy being a fish-out-of-water who shouldn’t be involved in this plot, and spends the movie just kind of shocked at what’s going on around him. It was a sure-fire formula, and this movie really does utilize it as best as it can. The jokes are decent, the action is good (although not particularly shot well), and it’s just kind of a mindless good time. It just feels a little old-fashioned. It used the formula, but didn’t really introduce anything new to justify dusting it off. It just feels like something that fell through a hole in time, appearing from a completely different Hollywood than the one we currently experience. It’s a nice little piece of nostalgia, and if you have that buddy-cop itch, it’ll probably scratch it.
Stuber was written by Tripper Clancy, directed by Michael Dowse, and released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2019.
Categories: Reel Talk