Directed by: Michael Showalter
Premise: A couple (Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani) going through a rough patch inadvertently get involved in a murder. They spend the night running around the city trying to identify the killer and clear their names.
What Works: The best aspect of The Lovebirds is the relationship between the couple played by Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani. The two actors have a vibrant romantic rapport and they fight and they flirt in a way that is very appealing. The film begins with a prologue of their first date and then skips forward a few years at which point their relationship has plateaued. Whenever The Lovebirds slows down to focus on their troubled relationship it is funny and glib and occasionally heartfelt in a way that is sincere.
What Doesn’t: The problem with The Lovebirds is that everything around the couple is cliché and uninteresting and does not fit with the central relationship. This is a one-crazy-night movie in which a strained couple must reevaluate their relationship while working through a problem. It’s a familiar scenario but it could work if the couple was doing something more consistent with who they are. The murder mystery does not suit these characters at all and it comes across generic. The mystery is not interesting and the plotting is slapdash; the whole mystery portion of the story comes across as an afterthought. And in films like this the wacky adventure usually is just a pretense for whatever is happening between the characters. But there are two problems with the adventure of The Lovebirds. The first is that the violence is tonally out of sync with the romance and comedy. The second problem is that the romantic comedy and the murder mystery are disconnected from one another. The couple’s wacky adventure never puts them in situations that force a reckoning with their domestic problems. Aside from the banter between Rae and Nanjiani, very little of the comedy in The Lovebirds is funny. All of the big comic set pieces—all of which were seen in the trailer—are lame and unimaginative. This one-crazy-night story is just not very crazy. Instead the movie plays like an episode of a television dramedy that’s been artificially inflated with filler. Even at eighty-six minutes the film is padded.
DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: The Lovebirds torpedoes the likable banter between Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani with a stupid and uninteresting murder mystery. Rae and Nanjiani are a great screen couple and hopefully they will work together again on a project that makes better use of their talents.
Episode: #802 (May 31, 2020)