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Stuber •••

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Reel Heroes & Villains
Greg Smith & Scott T. Allison
Reel Heroes Volume 1

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Starring: Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani, Mira Sorvino
Director: Michael Dowse
Screenplay: Tripper Clancy
Action/Comedy/Crime, Rated: R
Running Time: 93 minutes
Release Date: July 12, 2019

SPOILERS WITHIN!


Scott, are you ready to review the latest 90-minute ad for Uber?


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, this movie did Lyft my spirits. Let’s recap.


We’re introduced to Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) who is working with his partner Sara (Karen Gillan) to track down bad guy drug dealer Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais). Tedjo kills Sara during a drug bust and now Manning is on the warpath to bring Tedjo to justice. But his boss Angie McHenry (Mira Sorvino) wants to turn the case over to the feds. Now he has only one day to get Tedjo.

Enter Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) who is an Uber driver and clerk at a local sporting goods store. He is in love with Becca (Betty Gilpin) who wants to run a spin-bike spa. Stu fronts her the money and of course Becca is oblivious to his intentions.


Meanwhile, Manning has temporary eye damage and needs an Uber after receiving a tip about where to find Tedjo. Stu needs money and is desperate for a 5-star rating from his customers. So when Manning asks Stu to “keep the meter running”, Stu complies and becomes Manning’s chauffeur, thereby getting sucked into the dangerous world of being Manning’s police partner.


Scott, I was ready to hate this film. It’s such a retread of Ride Along or even The Odd Couple. But both Bautista and Nanjiani are such lovable actors that it was hard not to like their characters. In the classic Buddy-Film fashion, each comes to the table with foibles that the other softens. Manning is eternally gruff and neglects his grown daughter’s artistic achievements. And Stu is a whiny milquetoast who won’t stand up for himself. By the end of the film they each learn from the other and become best friends. Classic.

But along the way are some very funny and entertaining scenes. Make no mistake, the plot is formulaic and simplistic. You’ve seen this movie a dozen times. But with the bull-dog-like personality of Manning trying to make a man of Stu, and the touchy-feely soul of Stu trying to instill some empathy in Manning – we get comedy gold.

One joke that stood out to me was when Stu makes a statement about how Manning is a white man who is taking a brown man to jail. Manning says “I’m not white.” To which Stu replies: “What are you? You’re sort of what would happen if every race on the planet had sex and had a baby.” Which is not only funny but true. This film lacks a major white star in the lead. Bautista is of Greek and Philapeno ancestry, Nanjiani is of Pakistani descent, and Manning’s daughter, Nicole (Natalie Morales) is Cuban. It would be virtually impossible to green-light such a cast ten years ago.


Greg, I have to agree with you. Stuber is one of those movies that we can go our entire lifetimes without seeing and still lead perfectly wonderful lives. There’s nothing here we haven’t encountered in a buddy hero or buddy cop story many times before. Yet, having said that, I enjoyed Stuber. It has an appealing sweetness and charm, and it was peppered with enough mildly amusing lines and situations to keep me smiling and interested from start to finish. Yes, it’s superficial entertainment, but don’t we sometimes need to hit the mental off-switch and enjoy some light humor?

You know it’s a buddy story when two people meet at the beginning of the movie and they don’t like each other. There’s no better predictor of impending buddiness. We have an original premise of a temporarily blind veteran cop needing an Uber and needs the driver to help him crack a case. To say that this set-up is far-fetched is to observe that the Pope is Catholic. But with our mental off-switch we can buy into this premise and enjoy the preposterous idea that an Uber driver will do anything, and I mean anything, to get that highly coveted (and apparently rare) 5-star rating. By the way, I’m not an Uber driver but if they have to put up with a fraction of the crap this film says Uber drivers have to put up with, then Uber drivers are heroes with a capital H.

There are a couple of good messages we can glean from this film. One message is that we should tell the people we love that we love them. This sounds trite, and in a way it certainly is, but we do live in a world where, to their detriment, people deny their feelings, or avoid them, and withhold them out of fear. Another related message is to show honesty in sharing negative emotions, too. Stu and Vic don’t really bond as buddy heroes until they tell each other how they truly feel, through comic violence in a sporting goods store. The honest exchange produces mutual respect – something the world needs more of.


Stuber is clearly an advertisement for the Uber product, but what an ad. I laughed from beginning to end. The plot and script are cleverly written. There are a ton of in jokes (like in the opening Stu asks Vic if he ever dived in front of a bullet to save someone. To which Vic explains that only happens in the movies as there is no time to act once the trigger is pulled. But in the climax of the film – Stu saves Vic’s daughter in just this fashion. Talk about your Chekhov’s Gun). I’d ride with these guys any time. I give Stuber 3 out of 5 Reels.

Our buddies are the classic mismatched heroes. This legacy goes back beyond the original Lethal Weapon franchise. They are both likable and sympathetic characters who are flawed and need help. And by the end of the film they come together and help each other grow. I give them 3 out of 5 Heroes.

And the message that you need to be attentive to your loved ones (Vic) and that you need to respect yourself if you want others to respect you (Stu) are classic RomCom/Buddy Hero messages. 3 out of 5 Message points for that.

Movie: Message: Heroes:


Greg, I agree completely and so I’ll keep my ratings brief. Stuber is a very enjoyable “Lyft me up” buddy cop film that works because our two heroes are so completely different from each other and yet manage to help each other grow and transform in meaningful ways. There’s enough action and good humor to make this 90 minutes a worthwhile investment in your time. I also give the film 3 Reels out of 5.

Our heroes grow to like each other and become better people as a result of their adventures together. This is the classic recipe for success in buddy hero stories. Our dynamic duo deserve 3 Hero points out of 5. The lessons we learn from this film aren’t exactly earth-shattering but then a goofball comedy isn’t supposed to make us think too hard. Suffice to say we learn that sharing our feelings is important and that honesty in relationships is the best policy. Who knew? I give these messages 3 Message points out of 5.

Movie: Message: Heroes:


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