I didn’t know Natalie Morales all that well before seeing Stuber last week. The viewing didn’t exactly broaden my Morales vistas. She plays the bright, somewhat frustrated daughter of Dave Bautista‘s bruiser cop — pretty much a rote, thankless role in a crudely written, brutally violent action comedy.
But I did come to know Morales in the below IMDB-produced video, in which the former Grinder and Parks and Recreation costar talks with real feeling about her worship of Buster Keaton. I had the same reaction to her words that I’ve had whenever I’ve seen a gifted but unlucky actor, a veteran of almost nothing but underwhelming films and TV shows, shine in a brilliant Broadway play.
“Aaaah, so that‘s who Morales is!”, I muttered to myself. “She not only gets Keaton but thinks her contemporaries need to wake up and shake off their resistance to watching classic black-and-white films.”
Stuber is Collateral reimagined and downgraded by opportunistic vulgarians. I’m speaking of director Michael Dowse, screenwriter Tripper Clancy and producers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley.
It contains a predictably amusing performance by Kumail Nanjiani as an overwhelmed, too-sensitive-for-his-own good Uber driver, but it’s basically Kumail transferring his wry stand-up schtick to an action realm. Bautista struck me as too thick and gorilla-like to occupy the classic Schwarzenegger realm. Otherwise the basic idea behind Stuber is to bash, bruise, bludgeon and brutalize while leaning heavily on the cops-vs.-drug-dealers handbook.
Stuber appropriates Collateral‘s story and theme — a wimpish cab driver grows into a man of some consequence through an experience with a lone-wolf client with a violent job — while turning the dial up to 11. Torrents of coarse dialogue, gratuitous face-poundings, cartoonishly over-the-top stunts.
Variety‘s Peter Debruge wrote that Stuber “embraces the real-world physics of gunplay, car crashes and hand-to-hand combat.” Bullshit! The Daffy Duck vs. Yosemite Sam world, he means.
A couple of young guys sitting near me at last week’s Stuber screening were chuckling now and then, but I felt so numbed and deflated that I couldn’t bring myself to review it. Stuber currently has a Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic rating of 41% and 45%, respectively.
“People should see Stuber because I’m in it,” Morales says above. But they should also stream Steamboat Bill and The General.