If nothing else – and it aims for much higher levels than it ultimately is able to reach – The Lovebirds, the latest comedy vehicle for Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, does make you think. What would I do in their situation? Would I run and hide? Would I fight back? Would I allow myself to plunge deep into a real-life murder mystery to find the culprits despite having no skills to do so? Probably the first but this is an action/thriller comedy, after all, and such white flag waving isn’t what awaits them, or us, as we plunge with them.
Beginning with their first date which sparks immediate and uncontrollable love at first sight, we meet Lilani (Rae) and Jibran (Nanjiani) and fast forward four years and their unbelievable chemistry has become an unbelievable annoyance. They feel like they don’t work any more and despite setting off to a friend’s dinner party together, they decide they shouldn’t be together post-party. However, after accidentally hitting a bike messenger, their car is hijacked by cop-in-pursuit “Moustache” (Paul Sparks) who runs the bike guy over repeatedly, killing him and fleeing the scene leaving our dynamic duo to start picturing their prison cells as the FBI and other law enforcers begin their chase.
After their success with The Big Sick in 2017, Nanjiani and director Michael Showalter reunite for a sophomore collaboration but, out of all the ideas and scripts they must have been offered in the interim, this wasn’t perhaps the wisest of choices. It’s not that the film is bad per se but after such a wonderful, touching and vibrant first effort, to reduce themselves to a lazy, half-baked vehicle such as this sells them and the wonderful Rae very, very short. We’ve seen this particular type of tale done many times before with some success – Game Night, for instance – and falling flat on its face, like Date Night. This falls in the middle but more towards Date than Game.
Thankfully, when you get a film with two such wonderful actors with impeccable comedic timing and a great deal of depth and warmth to them, it’s hard to really fail and The Lovebirds lives and breathes on its leads. Together and apart, Rae and Nanjiani keep things ticking over just enough to immerse you enough in what they are doing despite the script around them failing them more times than it should.
There’s a crisp, sharp pace to it but the action sequences leave a lot to be desired and in a more capable hands, this could have been something. Instead, while it’s an amusing distraction from the crazy world outside us right now and its leads are exemplary, The Lovebirds is another case of high concept, low reward.
crime, comedy | USA, 2020 |15 | 22nd May 2020 | Netflix | Dir.Michael Showalter | Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Paul Sparks, Anna Camp