Would you rather watch a really stupid movie that made you laugh or a well-made movie that moves slowly? This week, I had both experiences, and I think I personally would choose the stupid movie.
Stuber, the action comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista is ridiculous and not especially well-written, but Nanjiani is so funny that I managed to still enjoy it. In Stuber, Stu (Nanjiani) is a clerk at a sports equipment store who is also trying to make the most of his side hustle driving for Uber. Vic Manning (Bautista) is a detective hot on the trial of a bigtime drug dealer who killed his partner six months earlier. On the same day that he has LASIK surgery, he gets a tip about where he can bust the drug ring. After failing to drive his own car to the scene, he calls an Uber. Stu is the unfortunate driver who gives Vic a ride, getting sucked into a day of violence and destruction featuring drug dealers, dirty cops, and more wear and tear than his electric car is ready for.
This movie is clearly taking a new spin on the buddy cop movie, by putting anxious, mild-mannered Stu in the position of the cop’s partner, which pushes him far, far beyond his comfort zone. The result is very funny, but mostly because Kumail Nanjiani is so likable. Everyone else in the movie gives a lackluster performance. Dave Bautista is wooden and awkward even during the parts that seem well-suited to him. Although The Rock is getting overexposed, I can imagine that the movie would have worked better with someone possessing his level of charm playing opposite Nanjiani. Similarly, Betty Gilpin, who plays Becca, the woman Stu is desperately in love with, delivers a flat performance. It is hard to hold her wholly accountable, however, as her character is little more than a plot device.
Often, the movie goes more for shock and awe than anything else. For example, one scene takes Stu and Vic to a male strip club where Stu gets relationship advice from one of the dancers. Again, Nanjiani makes the scene funny when little else works. In another scene, they have a massive gun battle in an animal hospital while the vet is out walking the dogs. I took major issues with that scene, which was clichéd and hard to watch because of the caged rabbits and cats in the background.
Stuber was poorly written and badly acted by all but Kumail Nanjiani. I would probably watch him read the phonebook. Did I laugh a lot? Yes. Was it a good movie? No. I rate it 2 of 5 stars.
Stuber was written by Tripper Clancy and directed by Michael Dowse. It runs 1 hour and 33 minutes and is rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity.
Streaming on Netflix, I Am Mother takes place in a bunker in which a robot, Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne), teaches Daughter (Clara Rugaard) to be a superior human, one who can help raise her brothers and sisters (stored embryos who can be grown to term when Mother is ready) to repopulate the Earth after wars have made the planet uninhabitable. When a woman (Hilary Swank) shows up on the bunker’s doorstep, suggesting to Daughter that the world is not as uninhabitable as Mother said, Daughter is faced with hard decisions about her future and how much she should trust Mother, the only companion she has ever known.
I Am Mother is a much better movie in terms of acting, writing, and cinematography. The story picks up some interesting threads about artificial intelligence, ethics, gender, and family. The performance by Clara Rugaard is especially good and she carries the movie mostly on her shoulders, giving her character depth and emotional weight. The story, however, moves very slowly. At one point, I thought it must be getting toward the conclusion only to find there was a half hour left. Especially if you enjoy sci-fi, I Am Mother is worth checking out. If you just want to laugh, however, Stuber is more your speed.
I Am Mother was written by Michael Lloyd Green and directed by Grant Sputore. It runs 1 hour 53 minutes and is rated TV-14.