Synopsis – A couple experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery.
My Take – With the state of the world’s current situation remaining highly unchanged, for people especially staying at home, a lighthearted fare feels wholly welcomed to deliver on some much needed escapism. A factor I’m sure Netflix is banking on, as the streamer gets to release one of the casualties of the theater lock-downs, a Paramount film which was originally slated to have its theatrical debut on April 3rd following its premiere at the SXSW festival in March.
Honestly, it feels more at home on Netflix. It’s one of those films we’ve all seen dozens of times, and there’s a certain mindless comfort that comes with films like this. It’s a fun, easy watch with a couple good laughs sprinkled in to keep you engaged.
However, what elevates this film is the presence of Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, two of the most exiting performers working in the industry today, who here with their fast-paced wordplay allow for several laugh out loud moments with the affable nature of the two stars making the whole experience light and watchable. As long as you aren’t looking for anything groundbreaking, this is an enjoyable popcorn film.
The story follows Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani), who fell in love instantly after spending a night followed by a whole day together, but now, four years later, the two are on the brink, finding everything to argue about, including whether or not they could possibly win the Amazing Race.
With their fight continuing on route to a friend’s dinner party, where they finally confess to one another that they need to break up, they are forced to pause when they end up hitting a man riding his bike, who despite his injuries, gets ups and cycles away, but things get weirder when a man claiming to be a cop (Paul Sparks) takes control of their car, runs the man down and flees the crime scene.
Left to bear the brunt, both Jibran and Leilani are worried that the police would categorize them based simply on their skin color, making them the best suspects. Left with no choice but to solve the crime themselves in order to clear their names, the two find themselves in a night of unraveling mystery, criminal activity, and increasingly awkward circumstances.
With its story taking place within the span of one night, the film is apt to earn comparison to the 2010 comedy Date Night with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey, and rightly so. That pair starred as a married couple stuck in a rut who get caught up in some mob business after spontaneously taking someone else’s reservations at a restaurant. There are plenty of similarities to draw on, including the chemistry between its two leads.
You can even compare the film to the exceedingly well-executed 2018 comedy Game Night with Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman, a film that excels at the ‘one crazy night’ premise.
However here, director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) working from a screenplay from Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall, offers up anything truly new here. The film feels a little too familiar and a little too safe, their hi-jinks are all a bit too random to fully get on board with the journey, and he lets the jokes come quick, sometimes blink-and-you-miss them fast, often not seeming to care if they truly land.
The film is not boring by any stretch of the imagination; it is just not the kind of film you would have paid full price to see if the theaters were still running. But at a swift 87 minute run time, the film never overstays its welcome, which certainly would have been a danger. The reliance on the comedic pairing of its leads is obvious, but luckily for the filmmakers it largely pays off. For a lock down film, it sets a low enough bar, and hops over it leisurely.
Issa Rae continues her transition from TV to reliable comedy lead, hitting each setup with endearing enthusiasm. She keeps the energy levels up to make this stock time-killer a breezy enough 80-odd minutes. Kumail Nanjiani‘s more tragicomic turn in The Big Sick, proved he can pull off characters other than the token unlucky-in-love nerd, here too, he kind of continues that role effortlessly.
Though at first glance, they might look like a pairing that came out of nowhere, but, Rae and Nanjiani make the ride fun enough with their easy chemistry and silly, wide-eyed panic at everything they’re witnessing. In smaller roles, Anna Camp re-channels her True Blood villainy in an extended guest appearance, and Paul Sparks is effortless as the mustached villain. On the whole, ‘The Lovebirds’ is a funny enough comedy to guarantee as a one-time watch.
Directed – Michael Showalter
Rated – R
Run Time – 86 minutes