I don’t mind leftovers. Actually, some things are better the second time around. I tend to like spaghetti and meatballs after it has sat in the fridge a day or two. (I have no hard evidence to back this up, but I think the sauce is absorbed by the noodles as it sits, making it better.) And I certainly won’t turn down a meatloaf sandwich, especially if there’s a slice of red onion and some brown mustard to jazz it up.
That being said, there are some things that just aren’t any good when reheated (French fries? Nope!), a thought among many that I had while watching “Stuber,” a comedy that is nothing more than a collection of narrative leftovers, a pastiche of characters and situations you’ve seen many times in better movies than this. My mind wandered quite a bit while sitting through this lackluster affair, knowing full well there was no danger of my missing any groundbreaking plot twists or innovative cinematic breakthroughs. This is a such a rote exercise, I could have balanced my checkbook while watching it and still not have missed a thing.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Sad-sack Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is working two jobs so he can help the girl of his dreams, Becca (Betty Gilpin), who has him forever in the friend zone, start her own business. He’s a polite, doormat kind of a guy, the exact opposite of renegade cop Vic (Dave Bautista), who’s been on the trail of his partner’s killer for over a year.
Wouldn’t you know it, he gets a solid lead as to the bad guy’s whereabouts on the day he’s had Lasik surgery! Unable to drive himself, Vic requests an Uber and who shows up but Stu to assist him, unaware that the emotionally stunted police officer is about to drag him into a manhunt that will put him in grave danger.
Of course, their opposite personalities clash; of course, each of their faults and fears are exposed; and of course, having survived multiple trials by fire, they become friends in the end. “Lethal Weapon,” “Rush Hour,” “Ride Along” and any other buddy cop movie you can think of is ripped off (wait, sorry, “paid homage to”) here as the script by Tripper Clancy eschews originality as if it were the plague.
Nanjiani and Bautista do their best to inject a bit of life into this mess, but their efforts are hit and miss. A sequence in a veterinarian’s office that goes sideways is very funny, as the timing between the two actors is sharp and on point. While the occasional joke hits its mark, far too many gags land with a thud. The rapid-fire editing generates visual confusion and the inability by director Michael Dowse to adequately choreograph a simple car chase or fist fight just pours gasoline on the fire that is this misguided effort.
I have no doubt that “Stuber” will be a hit. There have been far too few comedies released this year, so audiences are likely to be craving something light and silly. As long as viewers are fine with the cinematic equivalent of a reheated hunk of mom’s bland chicken-tater-tot casserole, this will certainly fit the bill.