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Karen Ballard

I didn’t expect much from Stuber, but it did make me laugh. By that measure, the new Kumail Nanjiani/Dave Bautista buddy comedy is a success, even if by all other measures it’s ugly, sloppy, and dumb.

Los Angeles cop Victor (Bautista) has just gotten a tip as to where he might find the guy who killed his partner. Trouble is, he just had Lasik surgery and can’t see anything, so he hires an Uber—driven by Stu (Nanjiani)—to take him to the scene. Naturally, timid and uptight Stu is the polar opposite to Victor’s aggressive bulldozer, and Stuber scrunches as many odd-couple jokes as it can into the slender premise of mismatched fellows going on a crime-y wild goose chase.

A few of the jokes land, entirely due to Nanjiani and Bautista being genuinely likable and funny. The rest of Stuber, though, is pretty rancid. It’s surprisingly violent, and horribly shot; Bautista’s nemesis is played by The Raid’s Iko Uwais, whose fight choreography is practically illegible due to poor camerawork. Uwais is nearly as wasted here as he was in the despicable Mile 22.

Stuber’s also ultra-formulaic. Most of the time it feels like a Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart vehicle that got turned down for being too R-rated. But the Rock’s loss is our gain, because Bautista is a better fit for the role of Victor, lending a sense of actual danger to the character. Similarly, Nanjiani is funnier than Hart because oh come on I don’t actually need to finish this sentence.

Still, I laughed at Stuber. I’m not super proud about it, but it had some jokes that worked on me. It’s the kind of mindless shit that’ll be fun to see in a beer theater, or to catch on an airplane in a few months, provided they don’t edit out too much of the swearing.