This weekend, action-comedy Stuber hits theaters. It’s a throwback to the days of ’80s odd couple buddy cop movies, with one twist (which we’ll get to). LAPD detective Vic (Dave Bautista) has been tracking crime kingpin Taijo (Iko Kuwais). Through a series of mishaps and a profound understanding of how ridesharing works, he flags down Uber driver, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) and forces him to be his chauffeur. As the pair hop from LA locale to LA locale, they must bring down their baddie while staying alive and trying not to kill one another in the process.
Is the chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani worth a trip to the theater? Here are three reasons you might want to see Stuber this weekend.
1. It Uses Modern Technology In A Clever Way
So many Hollywood movies seem to operate in an alternate universe, where modern technology doesn’t exist, or, at least, doesn’t impact the world in the same way it impacts ours. Think, for example, of how many superhero or action movies show a beat-down, drag-out brawl between two characters and it all seems to fly under the radar, as if every spectator wouldn’t just whip out their phones and immediately start tweeting about it. Or how many plot advancements hinge on the fact that apparently, no one in the movie has a cell phone to update another character on important developments. Stuber, on the other hand, is a movie that is planted firmly in our reality. Technology has advanced our lives in multiple ways, but it can also fail on us at the worst possible times. Most people have experienced the Russian roulette that is ride-sharing by now; maybe your driver (or passenger) will be great and maybe they’ll be a terror. And electric cars don’t run forever – there are consequences to driving one around and failing to charge the battery. FaceTime and other video chat apps are tools of convenience that can connect us with others in a real-time way, but can also be intrusive and poorly-timed, especially when there’s something going on in the background we don’t want the person on the other end to see. All of these are incorporated into the story in realistic ways rarely seen in movies, which generally tend to be about a decade behind in their portrayal of modern technology and how we use it. It was refreshing to watch a movie where the plot advances because of it, not despite it. If you, like me, grow frustrated at scripts ignoring the technological world we live in simply because it’s easier, rest assured Stuber does not.
2. It Is Laugh Aloud Funny
Alright, that point seems obvious – you would expect an action-comedy to be funny, after all. Too many, however, tend to rely on dumb, outdated humor. And while there is certainly some of that, it’s balanced out by Nanjiani’s deadpan style of comedy. He is a fish out of water, conveying the bewildered, snarky vibe of a man who can’t quite believe what’s happening to him and pissed that it is. In particular, the physical slapstick is over-the-top at times, with one particular fight sequence between the pair that is as much of a beatdown as it is a comedy setpiece (you can see them talking about it in the video above) and not something you’d ever expect of Nanjiani. The chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani works. You know the buddy cop thing by now: It’s an odd couple pairing with one straight man and one irreverent comedian. In this case, however, both men are straight men and both men bring their own brand of comedic overtones to their respective roles. It’s not complex and it’s not meant to be, but their easy chemistry together is what makes the movie click along at an entertaining pace.
3. It’s Surprisingly Timely And Relevant
When you think movie genres with apt and timely messages, action-comedy is likely not on the list. But Stuber is surprisingly woke, addressing toxic masculinity in unexpected ways. If that just made you roll your eyes, worry not: It never does it in a preachy or patronizing way, instead approaching socially fraught topics with honesty and a tongue-in-cheek slyness that never feels pandering. In particular, Vic has the sort of throwback, old school machismo that we’re starting to realize isn’t so great in 2019. “Be a man” and “boys don’t cry” might have worked in decades past, but not now. Stu explaining to Vic that, you know, never expressing your emotions isn’t all that healthy is a conversation countless numbers of us have had with older men in our lives (Hi, dad – if you’re reading this, it’s okay to cry! Love you!). Holes are poked in other outdated concepts of masculinity, from the friend zone to treating women as objects. I have to say, I did not expect to be immersed in some surprisingly well-executed anti-toxic masculinity themes when I walked into Stuber, but I walked out of it grateful that I was. It’s a unique twist on an otherwise simplistic formula that makes it more interesting than what we usually get from the genre.
Stuber is in theaters this weekend.