Director: Michael Showalter
Writers: Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, Martin Gero
Starring: Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Paul Sparks
On the brink of breaking up, a couple (Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani) find themselves in thw rong place at the wrong time and embroiled in a murder mystery. As they try to clear their names, they not only find themselves deeper involved in a criminal underworld, but also try to figure out how both they, and their relationship, can survive the night.
Remember the film Date Night that was released in 2010 that starred Steve Carrell and Tina Fey? No? I do not believe that many people do, but that is fine, as Netflix’s latest release is basically the same film – with a few minor differences of course. As with Date Night (and the plethora of other genre pieces) The Lovebirds very much diligently follows a set narrative pattern of being a hybrid of the wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time-buddy-action-movie / ‘one crazy night’ move / romantic comedy that consists of absolutely no shocks or surprises, and it seems that all involved are more than happy to keep it that way. It also does beg the question as to why Netflix are releasing so many action comedies at the moment!
However, if you are looking for something to stream that is easy on the brain and passes 86 minutes, then you could certainly do far worse than The Lovebirds. There is admittedly a certain amount of reassurance from its slapdash, but ultimately very predictable and unchallenging plot, and what then thankfully elevates it in my view to the ‘watchable and entertaining’ category is its two leading actors.
As the titular ‘lovebirds’ – well, with of course very little initial (it is not a spoiler to use that word) actual love – Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani do share a great and very natural on-screen chemistry that does elevate what is an often quite lacklustre and messy script. I am not sure how much of the dialogue is improvised, but when the scenes where the two of them are having textbook ‘couple’ arguments during the various situations the plot forces them into are by far the best bits of the film. This is particularly redeeming for Kumail Najiani, as for me 2019’s extremely underwhelming action-comedy (minus both the action and the comedy) Stuber really didn’t work.
As the generic plot plods along from one set piece to another and the two protagonists inevitably find themselves increasingly out of their depth and in supposed danger, there is never any true sense of actual threat or danger. When a film contains action and comedy it is admittedly difficult to achieve this balance, but despite the fact the ‘couple’ encounter some supposedly dangerous and ruthless characters, the film has a more light, fluffy and slapstick feel to it than us ever truly thinking that these characters (who we do admittedly find ourselves liking and caring about) are in any genuine danger. If the writers had decided to take some more risks and been willing to go for something that is occasionally darker (while maintaining the ‘couple banter’) then perhaps Lovebirds may well have been more than just entertaining and forgettable fluff.
In fact, the writers quite clearly struggled to fit the narrative premise into a feature length running time, as despite only being 86 minutes long Lovebrids does contain many moments that do fill like completely pointless filler. However, often these moments when the ‘plot’ has a little bit of a rest from admittedly doing very little and lets the two protagonists bicker for five minutes does often (but admittedly not always) produce some of the film’s best moments. These moments certainly do make sure that we care about this couple and want them to survive the whole ‘one crazy night narrative’, even if deep down we know what is going to ultimately happen at every supposedly key moment of the film.
In terms of dialogue, though a lot of it is admittedly rather safe, it is nice a to see a genre piece like this where the dialogue is generally very universal in that the same plot and dialogue (with a few minor changes) could be used irrespective of the race, gender or sexuality of the two protagonists. It is a gripe of mine that so many films these days that feature non-white main characters just use this as an opportunity to make extremely cheap, racist jokes (at the expense of people from all backgrounds – the recent Netflix release Coffee & Kareem did this is a lot, which is one of the reasons I could not be bothered to review it) and with the exception of a couple of very cringe inducing and lazy jokes, it is nice to see that Lovebirds refrains from going down this route.
There is actually very little to say in a review of Lovebirds as it is such an unashamedly minimal and unremarkable film, but though it is certainly never uproariously hilarious, it is often mildly amusing and entertaining. Pretty much all of the credit for this has to go to its two leading actors.
Though it contains a very minimal and generic plot, thanks to the undeniable chemistry from its two extremely likeable leads, Lovebirds is not a particularly memorable, but surprisingly enjoyable 86 minutes.
At time of writing The Lovebirds is available to stream on Netflix – trust me, you could do worse!