Kumail Nanjiani Is Wasted in the Stultifying 'Stuber' | Movie+TV Reviews | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Kumail Nanjiani Is Wasted in the Stultifying 'Stuber'


August came early this year. Hollywood traditionally reserves the month as a dumping ground for its duds and disappointments. Yet here we are, barely into mid-July, and the only new arrivals at the multiplex are Crawl, which wasn't screened for critics, and Stuber, whose star bailed on "Conan" with just minutes to airtime the night before its release. What's everybody trying to hide?

Margot Harrison has the skinny on those computer-generated gators (below). I can only speak to possibly the longest, loudest, least satisfying 93 minutes of my moviegoing career. What the creators of Stuber are attempting to deflect attention from is a massive travesty on a par with, oh, I don't know, Heaven's Gate (are you up on your movie travesties?).

Scripted by Tripper Clancy and directed by Michael Dowse (I know — who, right?), the picture inexplicably teams one of the smartest and funniest performers on the planet with the guy who plays Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. The plan apparently was to make an action-laugher and strike 48 Hrs.-style gold (are you up on your '80s mismatched-buddy comedies?). The plan did not exactly succeed like gangbusters.

Kumail Nanjiani has the Eddie Murphy part in this boneheaded throwback. After 2017's The Big Sick, which he cowrote and starred in, the world seemed to be Nanjiani's oyster. Building on the buzz from his work on "Portlandia" and "Silicon Valley," it was an achievement signaling the arrival of a major creative voice.

Well, Hollywood nipped that in the bud. I've never seen anyone go from promising auteur to hack-for-hire as fast. I hope the money was good. Nothing else about this movie is.

Seriously, it doesn't get dumber, more pointless, less funny or more mindlessly violent. Nanjiani plays Stu, an Uber driver with a crush on a friend (Betty Gilpin) who walks all over him. One day she gets tipsy and booty-calls him. Just as he's about to race to her place in his Nissan Leaf (a running joke that gets unimpressive mileage), a gigantic jerk invades the vehicle and commandeers it for police business.

That would be Dave Bautista. He plays Vic, an LAPD detective who's just had LASIK surgery and can't see straight. That's right: This is a comedy made by people whose idea of hilarity is a large man walking into stuff.

Which Vic does incessantly as he and Stu crisscross the city in search of the drug lord (Iko Uwais) responsible for the death of the officer's partner. That's right: This is a comedy made by people whose idea of a clever premise is a boorish cop forcing a mild-mannered millennial to chauffeur him from hazardous crime scene to hazardous crime scene. I don't know about you, but I could have happily gone through life without ever seeing Nanjiani brandish a firearm or take part in a car chase.

While the film clearly tanked over the weekend, and Nanjiani clearly couldn't bring himself to face Conan O'Brien on the eve of his fall from grace, one matter remains unclear and uninvestigated, as far as I can tell: Why did the comic get within a mile of this mess? I've googled my face off. The closest I've come to a clue is a video of a generic junket interview the two stars gave listing reasons for absolutely having to make the movie.

I see Nanjiani saying the usual show-biz things ("I thought the script was great." "I was excited to do an action movie."). Sadly, though, it's the money I hear talking.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Stuber"