“The Lovebirds” Movie Review


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     Movies like director Michael Showalter’s “The Lovebirds” are destined to be a bit overrated during these times, given the widespread craving for lighthearted comedic entertainment designed to help us forget, even for a couple hours, the situation we are now living in.  But that doesn’t mean the film is any good, and I can assure you both Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani will move on to star in a career’s worth of films that will be significantly better than their current offering.  As presented, “The Lovebirds” is a mindless mass of consumable celluloid.  No different than eating an entire box of your favorite candy, and then wishing an hour later for something more satisfying.

     Don’t mistake my sentiment here, both of the stars are capable, likable actors whose best work is clearly ahead of them, but the script, courtesy of Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, and Martin Gero, is a choppy mishmash of action comedy tropes that sees our duo moving about a series of scenes more akin to SNL sketches than that of an actual feature film.  Add to that a cardboard stock villain, played by a completely wasted Paul Sparks, and you have the recipe for a cinematic outing you’re likely to forget minutes after it concludes.

     Originally slated for theaters until it was sold to Netflix as a result of the current pandemic, “The Lovebirds” seeks to tell the story of a constantly bickering New Orleans couple who are thrust into the extraordinary circumstances of a murderous whodunit.  Nothing serious here, it’s all played for laughs.  Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani of HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) and Leilani (Issa Rae of HBO’s “Insecure”) met about four years prior and instantly fell in love.  But as anyone who has been in a relationship knows all too well, the honeymoon phase eventually ends and living together amongst each other’s annoying habits can quickly put a strain on even the strongest of supposed bonds.

     And an all out squabble while on the way to a friend’s dinner party ends with a number of unkind things being said, alarming both to the likelihood of a near certain break up being on the immediate horizon.  But suddenly, while in a girlfriend induced rage, Jibran hits a bicyclist who appears out of nowhere in front of their car. Before they can get out and render aid, another man jumps in the driver’s seat claiming to be a cop, and subsequently runs the bicyclist over several times ensuring he is dead.  And when they realize the man is indeed not a cop, he jumps out and runs away, leaving the beleaguered couple to appear as the culprits when a pair of lame and overtly progressive passersby stop and call the police.  Instead of staying put and explaining themselves, Jibran and Leilani hightail it out of there on foot and plant themselves at a local diner to explore their options as innocent fugitives.

     The story, if we want to call it that, really is as dumb as it sounds.  Doing their own detective work, they are able to infiltrate a frat party, an “Eyes Wide Shut” style underground masked orgy, and a number of other implausible situations all so they can put on the fish out of water act that has become so tiresome in pictures like this and attempt to generate a few laughs.  If you’ve seen the film’s trailer, then you not only know the premise, but those moments of laughter have already been spoiled, leaving the viewer with nothing more than a second rate attempt at yet another relationship comedy gone wrong.

     Thank goodness Rae and Nanjiani are game in their roles, milking everything they can out of every stupefying morsel.  Their talents are undeniable, and it seems actors like them always have to climb the proverbial ladder in Hollywood, doing low level projects like this, before they are allowed to take part in a film that will truly elevate both their craft and their standing within an extremely competitive Hollywood landscape.  There is a long list of action heroes who did films like this for years before they finally found themselves on center court and doing the kind of work they probably had in them all along.

     Even for Showalter, the film is a major step back, coming after his smart and funny 2017 film “The Big Sick”, which also starred Nanjiani, and explored real issues at the core of important aspects of life like family and the fragility of our health.  Doing a complete farce like “The Lovebirds” doesn’t show range as a filmmaker.  It does the exact opposite in fact, indicating what bad choices really look like, and all in an effort to make some quick Netflix cash while feeding the masses who are stuck at home.  Problem is, the film is nothing more than empty calories.  GRADE: C-