Hank reviewed the script above, so I am going to talk about the film that came from it. I specifically went to the theater this past weekend interested to see what they had done with this idea because A. I like Dave Bautista a lot and B. A couple of years ago I had a similar script that I was sending out. This actually became of my most requested scripts ever and had very similar tone and concept to Stuber, in that it was a buddy-action-comedy about a kidnapped driver. However, after pitching my script around for some time, I was eventually told by a studio that they loved the concept, but that action-comedies were hard sells – especially from a first-time writer.
Now, I’m not at all telling you to put your buddy-action-cop script away and I can only speak to what I have been told, but I know in my experience that these are tough sells, as comedy is subjective and with explosions, bigger casts and shootouts or other action-heavy set pieces, they can be a bit pricey. Without names attached to your script already or someone taking the script around Hollywood for you, it’s not always a bet that many studios like to take.
As I said, when I saw the first trailer for this film, I thought that it looked kind of familiar – not that I am saying they stole my idea or anything like that, but it was similar enough that I was surprised to see it on the big screen.
Not that I’m bitter about this… not that I’m too bitter about this.
Oh, and you can find the script in the link that Hank posted above if you want to check it out – I’m talking about the finished film, but I skimmed the script and read Hank’s review and they are pretty similar, so most of my comments apply to both.
So, let’s get into it:
I love and respect Hank’s opinions, but I have to disagree with him on several points that he made in his script review – first and foremost:
Stuber is a stupid title – really awful – it tells me nothing about the story or even, really, the characters, the conflicts, etc. And yes, I get the joke: His name is Stu and he drives an Uber – if you put those two words together, you get Stuber!!!!
A dumb pun like that doesn’t mean it’s a good title for your $16 million action/comedy. Also, the filmmaker literally had the characters make this joke “Stuber. Ha!” and then laugh out loud at it in the film which is the worst kind of metaphorical masturbation.
Also, the film has an R rating – not sure why they didn’t push for a PG-13 with this film. I typically like an R-rating more, but some of my favorite buddy/action films are PG-13 (Rush Hour 1 + 2, Shanghai Noon + Knights, yes I am a big Jackie Chan fan, sue me) so it can work and would likely make more money in this format as teens could get in without mom or dad.
The film just had some language, really. A little bit of blood, but nothing that added to the plot or couldn’t have easily been cut or changed in post. Oh, and there is a naked man at the strip club.
… Which is weird, as it’s just like one naked man in the changing room and, though it is kind of a funny joke as Stu talks to his “friend” via Facetime trying to pretend that he is at home or in the car and the naked guy walks by in the background, this could easily have been implied or otherwise framed or written so that a PG-13 rating would get approved. You can show butts in PG-13’s, right? Just have the naked guy’s butt and then, boom, you’ve done the same joke and earned yourself millions more in ticket sales in the process.
Sigh. We start with Dave Bautista – his partner gets killed while trying to catch Generic Bad Guy – didn’t see that coming – except, yes, everyone in the audience totally did.
Quick note here on his partner’s death: In the film she gets shot, but it doesn’t even seem that bad. I mean, she has a bulletproof vest on (I think) and it kind of looks like the bullet just winged her – like, she talks to Dave Bautista for a minute after she is shot. It’s weird and jarring, especially because we cut immediately to 6 months later and Dave Bautista is now obsessively looking for Generic Bad Guy because we hear that his partner died.
I kept waiting for a twist where his partner was still alive and came to save them in the third act. Maybe she was hiding out in witness protection until they caught Generic Bad Guy or something. I mean, she could have been evil too, but that would be have been really cliche and done before (see Rush Hour 2) and… actually, I’m surprised that they didn’t use this tired gimmick.
So, anyway, six months after his partner is killed, Dave Bautista. is having problems with his daughter (who is off screen most of the time), his boss and the case of Generic Bad Guy which has – gasp! – just been given to the FBI.
Deciding that he has gotten too old for this shit, Dave Bautista decides to get LASIK eye surgery. That sounds like I threw in a poor transition between my paragraphs, but the movie switches scenes about as smoothly, so screw it. Anyhoo, Dave Bautista does get his eyes chopped up by a laser —
After having his eyes gored like a cocky sprinter during the running of the bulls, Dave Bautista gets a call from one of his C.I.’s telling him that a shipment of heroin is coming in and Generic Bad Guy (the one who killed his partner) is going to be there.
Dave Bautista immediately ignores what his doctor told him not 30 seconds ago (in movie time – in actual time it probably would have been like an hour or two) and tries to drive to see his C.I.
Of course, he can’t see and crashes his car. Only then does he resort to calling an Uber which is driven by the hyper, Uber-rating-obsessed Kumail Nanjiani.
Oh, and we had a scene before that where we learn that Kumail Nanjiani has this toxic platonic friendship with a girl he likes (Karen Gillian) and is co-signing a lease to open a new gym with her… even though he doesn’t want to.
None of this really matters and is a completely disposable B Story. I guess it gives him some motivation to want to finish his Uber ride as soon as possible because she calls him a few minutes into Dave Bautista’s ride and says her boyfriend broke up with her.
So, Kumail, being a super-sad-creep, wants to swoop in and try to sympathy-sleep with her – seriously. And we are supposed to feel sorry for him or feel like helping Dave Bautista catch a big heroin-dealer and cop-killer is a big inconvenience to him?
I don’t know, whatever, I guess. I mean, it’s not like he’s going to make it over there because Dave Bautista holds him hostage. And not at gunpoint, as that might sound, no, Dave Bautista holds him hostage by saying that he won’t give Kumail a 5-Star rating if he ditches Dave at any point.
There are so many things wrong with this, I have to mention it:
First, I think the Uber Organization would understand if Kumail called them up and explained that he was taken hostage by an off-duty cop who had him make multiple stops where the cop then went and beat, tortured and murdered people, all while destroying his car (which is a lease!) in the process.
I’m not an Uber driver and I don’t work for the Uber Offices, but I feel like that is a pretty reasonable request.
Second, there is absolutely no reason that ANYONE would stick around after the first time that Dave Bautista runs into a drug den full of heavily armed people and starts a fight that leads to someone getting shot.
Third, they keep harping on the 5-Star Rating like it’s a common, relatable problem, but I just don’t think that the bodily safety of most people would come second to a stupid, arbitrary app’s rating.
However, then our plot would fall apart, so Kumail is obviously insane.
Now, Hank did mention in his script review, that: The bad guys get Stu’s license plate, and know everything about him, so in order to not look over his shoulder the rest of his life he sees things through till the end with Vic.
Maybe in the script, but in the film, Bautista maybe mentions this once… maybe, but it doesn’t really seem to matter or change Kumail’s choices – he just wants that 5 star rating, darn it, and he’s going to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it means getting killed in the process.
So, Dave Bautista “forces” Kumail to travel around LA – searching for Generic Bad Guy and Generic Bad Guy’s drugs… which are just kind of an afterthought to everyone. Like, the drugs are there and we see packets of them, but Dave Bautista really only wants to catch/kill this guy because of his partner – the teens who are getting hooked on these drugs he could take or leave.
Need I say more about the plot, or should we just get into some specifics? Since that’s a rhetorical question and I can’t hear you, I’m going to go into some specifics:
Pretty awful in most places: cliche lines, like: You spend all of your time focused on your dead partner, but ignore your living daughter!
Or, I know your partner died and you’re taking it hard.
Take heart, my screenwriting friends, because someone actually sat down in front of a computer and typed those words out, then thought: Yeah, this is Shakespearean-level shit right here.
Also, we have conversations that are only included to set scenes up later on in the film. I have no problem with this device/trope, but when you have an entire scene dedicated to doing nothing but mentioning “The pen knife that a character was given by his dad!” (Will that come back in the end???) or “That you can’t jump in front of bullet to stop it in mid-air!” (Gee, I wonder if someone will jump in front of a bullet in our final fight to save someone else’s life???) or “That cars don’t blow up in real life!” (I wonder what is going to happen to Stu’s car that he keeps mentioning is just a lease???)
Look, I’m being a jerk, but there is a whole, five minute scene where Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani just talk back-and-forth mentioning all of these things while practically winking to the audience.
Kind of like the scene from my favorite movie, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, (written and directed by the buddy-cop movie king himself, Mr. Shane Black) where RDJ says:
Okay, I apologize. That is a terrible scene. It’s like, why was that in the movie? Gee, do you think maybe it’ll come back later? Maybe? I hate that. It’s like the TV’s on, talking about the new power plant, hmm, wonder where the climax will happen? Or that shot of the cook in Hunt For Red October? So anyway, sorry.
My point here is that it’s just lazy and amateurish and go watch Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang if you haven’t already seen it.
That leads to my next point…
Plot – Predictable to a T
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m going to say it again: this was so standard that I think every single story beat fell almost on the exact page/minute designation in Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet.
I won’t spend too much time here on this, as I’ve already pretty much hit the main points, except to say that once you hear the bad guy’s plan (which is explained in excruciating detail via exposition given while the main characters are held at gunpoint – come on, that is so cliche!) it doesn’t really make any sense – if you wanted Dave Bautista dead… just have someone shoot him. There is no need for this insane, elaborate plan that can (and does) go wrong in so many ways.Characters
I said I disagreed with many of Hank’s comments above, but here is where we find common ground:
This means we need well drawn characters and tight plots packaged inside something original.
Unfortunately, this movie didn’t really deliver on that.
Not to hate on this movie too much, as it did a couple of things that I liked: for example, they gave Dave Bautista’s character an eye problem – this was a weakness that played into the plot (why he has to call an Uber to drive him) and was an interesting idea… except that Dave Bautista can say he has trouble seeing and drop things, but when he has to shoot stuff (people) during the midpoint action scene, he gets all headshots and none of the heavily-armed villains really seem to pose a threat.
Stuber (or Stu, or Steve as he is called sometimes) really doesn’t have any motivation or character development. At first he is continuing with the insanity because he needs to stay above a 4 star rating to keep driving for Uber because… yeah, it’s never really said.
It is also pretty ridiculous because he could just switch to driving for Lyft or something. This is really noticeable, as after the first time they shoot a guy or Bautista beats someone up, you would think that Kumail would just say nope, I’m out.
Now, if they had given Kumail a sick mother or grandmother who he is taking care of or earning extra money to get her into a nice retirement home or something, maybe. But they don’t. He is just doing this so he can invest in a crappy company that the girl he likes wants to start. Which makes it kind of hard to root for him.
I mean, it’s Kumail Nanjiani, the guy from Silicon Valley, so we like him, but his character is never given any real characterization or motivations. He’s just kind of a sounding board for other characters to annoy, threaten, abuse or humiliate and has no real reason for sticking around during this crazy adventure other than that the plot needs for him to be there.
Marina Sorvino plays the police chief and is horribly miscast for what she has to do —
From Hank’s review: One thing that did bug me was that it’s spelled out too clearly who’s helping the bad guys. Hopefully the film was a bit more guarded with this information.
If you don’t see it coming a mile away, then… well, you either haven’t been to a movie in a decade or you are not as horribly jaded as I am and then congratulations, I hope you enjoyed the reveal.
Karen Gillian – she plays Kumail’s “friend” who wants him to invest in her gym idea. She’s a terrible person – not the actual Karen Gillian, I am sure that she is lovely, but the character was so awful and unnecessary that it started to get on my nerves.
Natalie Morales from Parks & Rec shows up to collect a paycheck as well. Her only real reason for being in the film is that she has to fall in love with Kumail – since they had literally one conversation in the film which, by Movie Law 182, states that they must now fall in love and live happily ever after.
Now, it sounds like I am down on this film, and I wasn’t. Sure, it took some time to get going which isn’t a good sign, but I really like Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista is fantastic and a great comedic presence in this, so I had fun and left the theater with a grin on my face which is exactly what you hope for when you go see a film like this.
What I really wanted to talk about here was how this got sold or even made in the first place – because this is not inherently a bad story, but it is a really, really predictable one and brings nothing new to the genre. Again, this is a project that lives or dies on who you can cast and how they interact on screen.
Now, luckily for this film, they got two great comedic actors who play off of each other nicely. However, most of us don’t have the luxury of calling up Kumail Nanjiani or Dave Bautista and asking them to star in our big budget buddy action comedy, so we need to bring something fresh to the table and get a script that will really excite execs and showcase our own, unique voice.
That is not to say ignore the expected genre conventions or beats, but that you should try to do something new with them, to offer something original in the genre and in the world of action comedies. This film didn’t even bother to do that, which I why I have to disagree with Hank’s assertion that this is an original film – because it’s not really. Not to defend Disney remaking all of their old properties in a blatant and cynical cash-grab, but this is pretty standard, factory-made stuff too.
My advice for writing your own action-comedy is to watch a lot of buddy-cop action pieces – old, new, great and awful and start to meditate on what you like best about these and what moments/scenes didn’t work for you and then to write your own action masterpiece.
This one gets a RENT IT from me. There is nothing new here, per-say, but I think you will have enough fun with it that it is certainly worth your time if you are looking through Netflix one evening wanting to watch something silly.
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