The 400-Word Review: The Lovebirds
By Sean Collier
May 21, 2020
“The Lovebirds” is funny because its stars are funny.
Kumail Nanjiani, best known to wide audiences from “The Big Sick,” is a master of subtle, character-based comedy. Issa Rae, of TV’s “Insecure” and plenty besides, is the sort of performer who carries any project — drama, comedy or somewhere in between — with ease. The two of them play off one another perfectly. In watching “The Lovebirds,” I was equally engaged by the couple when they were going through the motions of a domestic argument as I was when they were trying to learn close-quarter fight skills on the fly.
They do great work, in short. To cover for a middling script, they need to. The trio of Aaron Abrams (mainly an actor), Brendan Gall and Martin Gero (both television producers and writers) are credited for the story and script. On paper, “The Lovebirds” isn’t necessarily flawed; it’s just thin, seeming to assume that its antics and turns are more wacky (and thus funnier) than they actually are.
Leilani (Rae) and Jibran (Nanjiani) are en route to a dinner party — and taking the moment to admit their relationship is on its last legs. The emotion of the moment is interrupted by a bicyclist crashing into their windshield; when they try to help him, he scampers off. A self-identified police officer commandeers their car, tracks down the wounded cyclist and kills him with Leilani and Jibran in the car.
As they desperately try to explain to passersby that, yes, they hit this guy with their car, but that was a while ago, it dawns on the pair that they have no plausible explanation for the situation. Their mysterious faux cop is nowhere to be found, but they and their car are standing suspiciously close to a very dead and seemingly innocent man.
The rest of “The Lovebirds” is a tale of clueless fugitives on the lam, sort of a “Queen & Slim” but a comedy. The idea is sound, but the mechanics are undercooked; other than a delicious appearance from Anna Camp as a mid-level baddie, the pair does a lot of nothing between the manslaughter and the conclusion.
With Nanjiani and Rae working hard on the film’s success, it’s a winner — particularly on Netflix, where comedies that are smart but not laugh-out-loud have a comfortable home. It could’ve been more — but most modern comedies have the same affliction.
My Rating: 6/10
“The Lovebirds” begins streaming on Netflix on Friday, May 22.