MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Stuber’ is a surprisingly funny buddy cop movie

Twentieth Century Fox

Comedies are probably the trickiest types of movies to review because viewers’ tastes vary so widely.

A case in point: some find the Three Stooges hilarious, while other just see three morons beating each other up for no reason. It’s in the eye of the beholder. To me, the Stooges are endlessly funny, just so you understand a little silliness doesn’t bother me.

The critical consensus on the buddy cop movie “Stuber” is that the concept is funnier than the actual movie, but all I can report is that I laughed throughout the movie, and the audience I saw it with did, too.

Honestly, going into the movie, I was expecting a dud. I really didn’t think the idea of a cop having to call for an Uber driver was all that creative, and the movie’s trailer never sold me either. The movie just looked dumb, and essentially, it is, but again I laughed more watching than I have at any movie this year.

The constant barrage of nagging quips and self-help advice delivered by Kumall Nanjiani, who plays Stu the put-upon Uber driver, kept me rolling all night. Nanjiani’s performance has an Albert Brooks quality that made me chuckle at every turn.

Nanjiani’s delivery can be dry and acerbic but with the sing-song rhythm of his voice, the jokes just slide in there perfectly, hitting you almost unexpectedly. I’ve enjoyed Nanjiani before, especially in “The Big Sick,” but after this movie, I’m eagerly awaiting his next project.

Stu, who drives for Uber on nights and weekends, is trapped in the friend zone with the love of his life Becca (Betty Gilpin) with whom he’s going to partner with in a spin club for single women called Spinsters. He needs the extra cash Uber provides for the investment

Stu gets involved with hulking LAPD detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista), whose vision is blurry after having LASIK surgery on the afternoon of a huge drug deal, involving ruthless drug trafficker and martial arts master Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais) Oka is also a cop killer, whom Manning has been chasing for five years.

Manning basically hijacks Stu and his electric car, drawing him into to your usual buddy cop antics that are reminiscent of 1980s cop comedies, including a hilarious shootout in a veterinary hospital, a shakedown in a male stripper joint, and a bust at a seedy smack joint.

Bautista isn’t a great actor, but under Michael Dowse’s direction, he proves to be a capable straight man for Nanjiani. He certainly has the physical prowess for the film’s action, and his heart bleeds through his gruff exterior enough to cover for what he lacks in acting chops. Bautista may have a very narrow lane as a performer at the moment, but he has an “it” factor that can’t be denied.

I wasn’t expecting much when I walked into the theater, and a freely admit I got caught up in the groove of an audience who clearly came to the movie primed to laugh. But funny is funny, and to me “Stuber” is the funniest movie I’ve seen this year.

(R) 1 hr. 34 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner – Easy Rider

Peter Fonda and Luana Anders in Easy Rider

“Easy Rider” is one of those movies that is both seminal and problematic. The 1969 film is a classic, giving viewers during its day and now a multi-angled view of counterculture movement of the late 1060s, and the emotional and often violent responses it evoked.

The independent film, produced by Peter Fonda and directed by Dennis Hopper, co-starred the pair as two California stunt motorcyclists, who smuggle cocaine across the border of Mexico and then make their way south-east to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Along their trippy way, they experience all forms of the free-loving, pot-smoking, LSD-dropping hippie movement. Unlike some films that only glamorize its subject, the movie exposed the warts of the counterculture movement as well as its pleasures, but despite depicting the consequences of the character’s excess, the film still made sure it drove a stake into the heart of the establishment.

The film has a distinct and dishonest agenda. Apparently to its creators most Southerners are idiots and get their kicks out of beating up on anyone who is different with baseball bats or shooting shotguns at them from the windows of their pick-up trucks.

Yes, I am a bit sensitive about at how Southerns are depicted in this film and others from the same time period, but I can guarantee you it doesn’t bother me enough to want to swing a baseball bat at anyone. But I digress.

Certainly, the movie does draw broad examples to make certain points, and that will likely play a bit sophomoric to a modern audience, but “Easy Rider” was one of the films that paved the way to the contemplative filmmaking of the 1970s, an era that created some of the best films of all time. To me, that gives “Easy Rider” some latitude.

The film is somewhat in the tradition of a Western with Fonda and Hopper’s characters named after Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. However, it’s rumored that Fonda adopted the look and mannerism of The Byrds’ vocalist Roger McGuinn, while Hopper borrowed his character’s style and behavior from the band’s guitarist David Crosby.

Jack Nicholson co-stars as George, an ACLU lawyer whom the pair meet in the drunk take. George finagles the pair out of jail and joins their mad motorcycle trek to Mardi Gras. Nicholson’s performance was a star-turning role. A bit character actor on TV shows and films before his role as George, Nicholson, of course, developed into one of Hollywood’s finest performers and biggest stars of the 1970s and ’80s.

Perhaps the best aspect of the film is the sound track featuring music by the Steppenwolf, The Jimmi Hendrix Experience, The Band, The Byrds, and McGuinn. Fonda reportedly paid $1 million out of his own pocket to make sure the film had just the right music. That was just under three times the film’s working budget of $360,000.

“Easy Rider” isn’t on my favorite movies list, but it’s certainly a film anyone who considers themselves a movie buff should see. Who knows, you might really like it.

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • Stuber(R) 1 hr. 34 min. (watch trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Hills

  • Crawl(R) 1 hr. 27 min. (watch trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills

  • Super 30(NR) 2 hr. 35 min. (watch trailer)
  • Playing at: Fiesta Square