Directed by #MichaelShowalter
Michael Showalter’s The Lovebirds has the distinction of one of the quickest to video releases ever. Originally scheduled for theatrical release on 3rd April 2020, Paramount rethought its strategy in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and, instead, the film’s rights have been sold to Netflix. However, this may be a blessing in disguise for this hit-and-miss crime caper. Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall and Martin Gero's script is largely short on big laughs for a theatrical feature.
Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) have been together four years but things appear to have run their course in their relationship. Just as they decide to call things a day, the hapless pair find themselves right in the middle of a bizarre murder mystery. Fearing they’ll be seen as the prime suspects, Jibran and Leilani go on the run to clear their name and catch the real killer.
The Lovebirds is a screwball comedy for the Netflix generation. There’s the farcical situations, slapstick and quick-fire repartee. Moreover, we have a battle of the sexes, with a stubborn central female character and the masculinity-challenged male. Yet, despite the potential on paper, there is very little spark. Nanjiani and Rae are likeable but lack believability as a couple and, crucially, we just don’t buy into much of the comedy around their relationship. Unfortunately, the best (and most daring) gag in the movie comes early. The rest is mediocre. Some amusing moments pop up here and there but a lot of the material feels like it’s straight from a first draft. A rewrite or two more clearly would have been a good move.
Abrams, Gall and Gero give a fresh spin on the rom-com formula, with a pair of fresh faces in Nanjiani and Rae. The duo have a fair crack at things but are short-changed with the material and, together, they don’t quite gel and are left to carry the comedy themselves. In hindsight, with its two leads lacking chemistry, the film cries out for a wider scope of comic characters. Everyone else is played straight and Jibran and Leilani aren’t funny enough as a couple to consistently hit hilarity.
At a lean 90 minutes, director Showalter keeps things zipping along and the movie doesn’t outstay its welcome. What we’re left with though is a mediocre comedy that is entertaining enough, though you can’t help but feel this could have been better.