REVIEW: “STUBER” (2019) 20TH Century Fox

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So I’m sure we’ve all heard the recent comments from Dave Bautista stating how he would never do a Fast & Furious type film noting he would “rather do good films”.   Well Dave, I’ve got a news flash for you. If “STUBER” is what you are bringing to the table instead, then you might want to re-evaluate that comment just a tad.  The past few Fast & Furious films, while by no means great, are Award material in comparison to ‘Stuber’  as at least they are so bad that they are good. And that my friends is not an easy accomplishment.   ‘Stuber’ on the other hand,  is really just brutal, absurd, unfunny, and tasteless, with very few if any, redeeming qualities.

The film centers around a highly aggressive LAPD officer Vic (Dave Bautista), looking for a brutal heroin dealer, Teijo (Iko Uwais).  However, he cannot drive to the locations that he needs to go to due to his recent Lasik surgery affecting his vision. As a result, he gets in an Uber with the mild-mannered Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) who is desperately trying to keep his star rating up, as he needs this second job because he has just invested in his secret crush’s Becca (Betty Gilpin) fitness business.  In one of the most implausable storylines ever written, he instead ends up having to keep going around with Vic to various crime scenes and assisting him no less, to stop the dealer.

Basically – Imagine every cop movie cliche: death of a partner, neglected and resentful daughter, a case that’s being “kicked up to the Feds,” a big score that’s “going down” right when the cop is supposed to be at his daughter Nicole‘s (Natalie Morales) big art show, a crooked cop, and on and on. Then add massive gunfights with plenty of heads spurting blood, a death in the first five minutes of a character meant only to give the cop another reason to be on the case. Give the cop Lasik surgery so he has to stumble around and use Uber. Add “jokes” that are as limp as cooked spaghetti and as dated as The Terminator, plus the ongoing humiliation of Nanjiani’s Uber-driving character as well as of the actor, and you have “Stuber” in a nutshell.

Given the popularity of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, I thought the idea for a buddy comedy about this could be both entertaining and timely.  Unfortunately, this was a dreadful attempt at action comedy that has some surprisingly visceral action scenes, yet fails miserably at virtually every other aspect.  The film’s plot generally consists of going from point A to point B and point C, which is fine, but the story’s narrative never manages to take any structural risks. As a comedy, “Stuber” falls pretty flat.  None of the jokes or “points” of the narrative really add up to much significance.  The more over-the-top moments in the film tend to rely on shock value just for the sake of it, unlike the better R-rated comedies that balance wit, irony, and strong writing with over-the-top content that we’ve seen this year.

Bautista’s acting is so bad that I am embarrassed for him – and while the saving grace of comedy jokes here is by far Nanjiani, he is just not strong enough to carry an entire film.  The only thing worse than Baustista’s acting was hearing so many people in the audience laughing at the violence and not at the jokes. And while Bautista has a huge fan base that I’m sure will love him in this, I can only speak for myself when noting this might be the one that changes their minds.  The film’s supporting characters are also embarrassingly written as their characterization is both paper-thin, most especially our villain Teijo who doesn’t even speak till the very end. You know my motto ‘a good villain can make or break a film’.

While the film’s surprisingly intense and violent action is generally well-choreographed, that is the only thing recommendable about this otherwise disastrous action-comedy. Even though Stu wants to earn a five-star rating in this movie, the film itself is only deserving of 1 star.

Grade: D

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, July 2, 2019 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

“STUBER” WILL BE IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2019

Film Review: “SMALLFOOT” (2018) – This WBA movie is good family fun – great soundtrack – but will it stand out in a crowd

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With this new addition from WBA (Warner Bros. Animation) to the animation game, this clever little spin on the BigFoot/Smallfoot switch-a-roo works fairly well in getting it’s message across. With an all-star voice over cast, that adds a wonderfully sequenced soundtrack with everyone from Channing Tatum, James Cordon, and Common & Zendaya adding their own spin of musical genres. “Smallfoot” cleverly inverts the point-of-view tale of how human and Yetis is to be told, but behind every animation movie, there is a message, and for me this one got a bit dark toned for a moment before it luckily lighted up into a nice, easily understood ending for the kids.

‘SMALLFOOT’ follows the tales of a clan of bigfoots living high up in the Himalayan mountains whose peaceful and orderly lives are disrupted when one of their own Migo (Channing Tatum), stumbles upon a a plane crash in the path of the young Yeti when he was flung off-course during gong target practice. See in Yeti mythology banging the gong raises the sun every day, to follow in his father Dorgle (Danny DeVito), footsteps. It means every morning he catapults himself headfirst towards a giant gong in order to wake the sun up. While investigating the airplane wreckage, Migo discovers a ‘smallfoot’ – a human – who is just as startled to come across the ‘mythical’ being as is the bigfoot itself. It isn’t just that these smallfoots (pssst smallfoots are humans 🙂 ) have thus far been the stuff of myth in fact, it’s that their very existence goes against the community’s long-held beliefs, which are literally set in stone and worn around the neck of the high and mighty Stonekeeper (Common). So as you can probably expect, that very individual is told to either rescind his account or face banishment from the community, but by bravely choosing the latter, opens up a whole new path of knowledge, understanding and enlightenment for his fellow 18-foot hairy denizens.

Lest you think that the movie ends up being too heavy-handed, I can reassure you that it never goes to dark for kids, or for that matter turn preachy. On the contrary, there are plenty of amusing details along the way – like how the fun-loving Migo is at first perfectly content to follow what is told, or the finding out about the S.E.S. (Smallfoot Evidentiary Society) a rebel band of Yetis led by the Stonekeeper’s own daughter Meechee (Zendaya), who assists Migo on his quest to find the Smallfoot and prove once and for all, they aren’t lying or delusional. or how Migo first runs into Percy, an animal TV show host whom is not only desperate to save his show and become famous, but he will become unlikely best buddies with Migo – who in his desperation for clicks tries to convince a fellow reporter to dress up in a Yeti costume so he can pretend to have captured one on camera.

So even though ‘Smallfoot’ never hits the gold standard of feature animations, there is plenty of fun and laughs to be had in this fable on lies and ‘myth-understandings’, as well as on mis-communication and the lack thereof. Like I said, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that its makers haven’t opted for just another superficially glossy piece of kids’ entertainment, and have instead decided to evolve the narrative in more complex and satisfying ways. I brought a 5 year old who loved it and completely understood all of it and that’s a big plus in kids movies today as not all have the younger kids in mind when made. It isn’t small or unambitious by any measure, and is in fact big on both entertainment and emotion, so you’ll find that there’s something for every member of the family – big or small – in this delightful celebration of wonder, discovery and truth.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening: Saturday, September 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
“SMALLFOOT IS OUT NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING IN OCTOBER 2018