Nonmedy, by Bob Connally

13 Jul

If you’re a baseball fan then you are familiar with what a fantasy camp is. People in their fifties with disposable income throw down an obscene amount of money to have baseball practice for a week with retired Major Leaguers from their favorite team. Yes, that sounds fun to me. But it also makes me wish that movie fantasy camps existed. I’m sure sci-fi and fantasy would be the most popular genres. Horror would have huge turnouts, especially if people got to kill and/or be zombies. That’s all well and good. What I really want is to go to buddy action comedy fantasy camp. You show up on a dingy looking police station set that hasn’t been used since 1993, you get paired up with a total stranger, and then you get assigned a case. You have “gun fights, car chases, proper action and,” whatnot. Along the way you cause property damage, eat about 17 street vendor hot dogs, and get trained in the art of delivering a perfect post-kill one-liner.

I would save up for years to do this if such a thing existed because one of my dreams in life is to be chewed out by an angry captain for “blowing up half a city block.” Buddy action comedies are like a big cinematic bowl of mac and cheese wrapped in a warm blanket for me. My love for the best of them knows no bounds. The look on my face when I merely think about Lethal Weapon 2 can best be described as pure, childlike joy. So believe me when I say you should never under any circumstances watch Stuber. No, don’t rent it at Redbox. Don’t stream it on Netflix/Prime/Hulu. Just don’t. It will just make your inner Lethal Weapon 2-loving child sad.

Writer Tripper Clancy and director Michael Dowse have made a film that wastes every opportunity it creates for itself to do anything funny, exciting, or even mildly interesting. The premise is a nice one for a modern day buddy action comedy. LAPD detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) has spent the past two years trying to take down drug lord Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais, The Raid). Teijo recently murdered Vic’s partner making the case even more personal for the detective. Vic learns that he will have an opportunity to catch Teijo in a few hours time, but his eyes are dilated from a visit to the optometrist and his daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales) is an artist opening an exhibition later in the evening.

Meanwhile, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is a sporting goods store employee who’s become an Uber driver to earn the extra money he needs to open up a new business. The business- a fitness center for women called Spinster- is the dream of Stu’s best friend Becca (Betty Gilpin, GLOW), who Stu is secretly in love with. After Vic makes a failed attempt at driving he remembers that Nicole had put the Uber app on his phone and Stu just happens to be the closest driver to the scene of Vic’s accident.

While the film certainly gets off to a rocky start in terms of its execution, one would hope that once our two protagonists meet, their chemistry could carry it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While Vic is a tough cop seemingly straight out of 1975, Stu is meek and seemingly afraid of everything. Vic believes emotions should be bottled up and come out as pure rage while Stu talks about the importance of a good cry. There is real potential in that just as there is real comedy potential in Vic trying to be a hard charging cop who can’t see where he’s aiming his gun. But time and again Clancy and Dowse set themselves up to hit a home run but hit a weak dribbler back to the fantasy camp pitcher who proceeds to throw them out easily at first. It’s as though they have a payoff to a joke in mind but can’t remember what it was when it comes time to deliver it. Outside of a handful of very minor chuckles, almost every joke lands with a thud to become what Rich Evans of Red Letter Media would deem “nonmedy.”

The greatest shame of all of this is that the poor screenplay and sleepy direction leave Bautista and Nanjiani twisting in the wind. One wonders what they could have done with so much as a decent script and a director with a real sense of comic timing and delivery. Instead, they’re left to do an embarrassingly lazy version of the “Have you ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air scene?” from Hot Fuzz (my fifth favorite movie of all-time). Stuber makes Central Intelligence look like Hot Fuzz. It makes Lethal Weapon 4 look like Lethal Weapon 2. Worst of all it just does absolutely everything it sets out to do badly. It wastes the pairing of its leads, it wastes a fun premise, it wastes the talents of Uwais and Gilpin, and if Karen Gillan is at all part of the draw for you (which she was for me) then you’d better not miss the first scene.

People have this idea that critics enjoy writing bad reviews. I truly don’t. They just force me to relive the miserable experience of watching a terrible movie. I’m always happier to write about something good. There are so few buddy action comedies anymore. Besides being a very specific subgenre, they tend to be the kind of mid-budget movie that studios are less willing to make these days. So when we get one I really want it to be good. Stuber is not good. Stuber is Not Fuzz. Stuber will not be referenced during my fantasy camp experience. Never watch this movie.

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