Kumail Nanjiani is a hysterical person. The talk he gave at CinemaCon in Las Vegas a few years ago had a crowd of 500 people laughing uncontrollably.
He was there to promote the movie he wrote and starred in called The Big Sick, which made my Top 10 that year. Last month, he was the funniest thing in Men in Black: International (and that movie is surprisingly entertaining).
He’s terrific in this movie and Dave Bautista is the perfect foil, but near the beginning of the movie when he has LASIK surgery and tries to drive his car down the street with disastrous results — I wondered what was funny about it. I stopped liking Mr. Magoo cartoons when I was eight-years-old.
Nanjiani plays Stu, who works at a sporting goods store, but has become an Uber driver to help pay for a small business his friend wants to open. He’s madly in love, but she’s put him in the friend zone. It’s rather amusing how obsessive he is about five-star reviews, and he does have some good zingers for his passengers; especially the big lug of a cop that barrels into his electric Leaf. Since Vic (Dave Bautista) can’t see anything, he needs Stu to help him out on his investigation. When they go into a male strip club, it was a surprisingly funny, strong 15 minutes. Especially when Stu gets advice on what to do about the woman he loves from a naked man. Even funnier was the outfit he ends up wearing to the stage (which I’m guessing was a nod to Hamilton).
The implausibilities start piling up like the bodies. And for a buddy comedy, the violence is surprisingly graphic. I can see why director Michael Dowse wanted to do it that way, so we’d be as shocked as Stu is. It just makes the tone of the film all wrong. The audience is also supposed to believe that Stu would just witness such intense carnage, and then have a witty retort. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they made me laugh. Other times, the jokes got repetitive. Other times, it felt like hacky material you’ve seen before. A guy that’s never held a gun accidentally shooting the bad guy (which was done so well with a spear gun in the Amy Schumer/Goldie Hawn movie Snatched).
Thinking about the jokes that Stu throws out — one about Vic looking for Sarah Connor (because the sunglasses from the eye surgery make him look like a Terminator), or another about him looking like Steven Segal. In fact, any time looks were made fun of in this, it worked. The one at Stu’s expensive was a joke about his eyebrows.
One of the problems is that Vic’s character is so unlikable. Also, I’ve never cared when a movie roughs up a bad guy on screen to garner information, but…in a day and age where so many people get divided on police shootings…perhaps that’s something tough guy cops on screen should probably retire from doing. Another problem is that for every joke that works (Vic yelling out “Head to Compton” with Stu explaining, “You can’t just yell out cities. That’s not how Uber works!”)…there are another 10 jokes that don’t work. Not a very strong ratio when over 100 jokes are thrown out there.
I ended up being so checked out during this movie, that I didn’t even bother to scold the guy with the motorcycle helmet that came into the Reading Town Square, and wouldn’t stop texting.
This movie had three things that so many movies have these days: A Bowie song, a barf scene, and the scene where a violent fight/gun fire is going down…and a character has to play a cheesy, easy listening (*) song that doesn’t fit. In this, that was The Hollies “The Air That I Breathe.”
There’s decent supporting work from Betty Gilpin as the girlfriend, Natalie Morales as the daughter (she has a great line about why “Spinster” isn’t the best name for spin cycle classes), and Jimmy Tatro was perfect as the obnoxious co-worker. He reminded me of a younger, better looking Ike Barinholtz; yet his character, like everything else in the movie, was too over-the-top and would’ve been funnier if it was scaled back a bit. Oh, and it was wonderful to see Mira Sorvino on screen again (her career got stalled because of supposedly being black-balled by Harvey Weinstein).
Apologies to the Uber driver that wanted five stars. I can only give this 2 out of 5.
(*) — on the subject of Easy Listening, I came home from this movie and while writing the review, got a phone call that my friend, long-time San Diego DJ Sam Bass, had passed away. He was on KYXY 96.5 FM for almost 40 years, and everyone that met him loved him. He was always very kind in complimenting the reviews I’ve posted here, and the last few years he’d write reviews of the films he saw on his Facebook page. He’ll be missed.