One of the earliest movies to be axed for a theater release, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Lovebirds” was released today (5/22) by Netflix but still carrying the ownership of original studio Paramount Pictures. Kumail Nanjiani re-teams with his “Big Sick” director for this murder, chase romantic action comedy. Even though it wasn’t filmed by Netflix, it looks and feels like a film made for a straight to streaming release. Taking much inspiration from the far superior, romantic action comedies “Date Night” and “Game Night”. The only saving grace is the natural onscreen chemistry of Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae. For such a short 82 minute runtime, the movie feels like a drag instead of feeling breezy. It’s really bland and slowly paced and needed the jolt of energy, fun, excitement and comedy, that “Game Night” gave us two years ago. While the funniest scene is spoiled in the trailers, the two talented and funny leads try to make it work, the best they can with their chemistry but are not given much else. Set these “Lovebirds” free. I say set these “Lovebirds” free.
It was one of the earliest movies to be axed for a theatrical release and shuffled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Lovebirds” was taken over and transferred to Netflix by its original studio, Paramount Pictures. The action-comedy reunites actor Kumail Nanjiani with his “The Big Sick” director, Michael Showalter, and pairs him with the quickly up and coming Issa Rae, as they play a couple on the run after witnessing a murder.
“The Lovebirds” gets released today on Netflix but still carrying the ownership of original studio Paramount Pictures. It’s weird that Paramount was going to release this in theaters because for one and you can tell immediately, that it looks like a true Netflix film. Even if the pandemic didn’t prevent it from a theatrical release. I don’t see how “The Love Birds” would have ever been capable of doing well in theaters.
We’re a decade away from the box office success of Steve Carell and Tina Fey’s “Date Night” and two years since Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams “Game Night”. These are two movies that “The Lovebirds” clearly owes a lot to. Both movies that are far superior to that of “The Lovebirds”. But while we are all stuck in the comfort of our homes, who doesn’t want to watch Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, already two of the funniest and talented people working today team-up. Not to mention see them do a mock sendup, of “Eyes Wide Shut” and a romantic action comedy in the spirit of “Date Night” and “Game Night”?
Issa Rae & Kumail Nanjiani are a couple who experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery. As their journey to clear their names takes them from one not so extreme and not so hilarious circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night while on the run.
The movie opens with how the two met and zooms right through their meet cute and all that cutesy stuff in the middle, in one of those romantic comedy montages. As quickly as you can say “bland movie”, they are off on the run after being suspects of murder. Considering that this all happens within the movie’s first 10 minutes, the ingredients are there for the mix of a breakneck romantic action comedy adventure.
Instead once the adventure starts, where the stakes and emotional development between the couple, should be ramping up, everything comes to a screeching halt. As they make their way from plot point to plot point, I actually had no care about what half-baked quest the two of them were actually on. Instead of their being any excitement, stakes, threats, or genuine character development. We are subjected to mostly lifeless scenes fueled exclusively by the bickering of the two main characters, until some sort of low-key chaos ensues, they stumble upon what they need, and move onto the next boring thing.
Even the threat of them being chased by the police is non-existent, as there is little to no evidence presented that they’re being chased by anyone at all. They are basically running on paranoia and if there was footage showing them as the subject of a manhunt, then it must have hit the cutting room floor. The supposed villain when we do actually get to see him, does very little to barely even register as a villain. That means across this whole adventure, the only motivators for story progression are the leads’ own paranoia that I previously mentioned. While it eventually lays the foundation down for a reveal at the end, the result is just lazy.
The only actual funny scene in the movie was spoiled in the trailer and happens much too quickly in the movie at only 25 minutes in. They knew is was a big comedy moment and they were quick to pull the trigger on it. Both Nanjiani and Issa Rae deserve much better than this. It’s especially unfortunate for Issa Rae who just came off a great performance in one of this years best films “The Photograph”.
When the two are onscreen, their passion is palpable, their back and forth banter is seamless, and everything from their animosity to their love exudes natural chemistry. I just wish the script gave them more to do, other than just beyond having them bicker in every scene.
While “Stuber” had it’s problems, at least it had laughs and it made the perfect example of why Nanjiani was so perfectly cast in ”Stuber”. He’s great at expressing his discomfort in any situation, especially when race factors into the equation. And some of “The Lovebirds” only good moments, make light of the cultural differences between Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Rae).
Issa Rae who broke out as the Melissa McCarthy sidekick role in the body switching comedy “Little” has successfully and quickly made her transition into leading actress. She is fierce, going toe to toe with Nanjiani and she always has this way in which her words become more cutting than they intend to be.
What’s most disappointing is that for how great these two are and for what they’re capable of. The material they’re given leaves them stranded in a bland, uninspired and un-energetic story that manages to make it’s 82 minute runtime feel like a drag instead of feeling breezy. It’s really bland and slowly paced. It needed the jolt of energy, fun, excitement and comedy, that “Game Night” expertly had and was so good at keeping throughout it’s run time.
At no point in time did “The Lovebirds” ever feel dangerous. The stakes are low, far lower than they should have been. While a little more edge and comedy, with less of the routine formula wouldn’t have hurt. We’re at a point right now where a laugh is more needed than ever, and “The Lovebirds” won’t accomplish that. It wont even scratch that itch by offering only one good laugh, one or two really amateurish bits, and led by two very talented and funny people making it work best they can with their chemistry but are not given much else. I say set these “Lovebirds” free.
GRADE: ★☆☆☆☆ (1 out of 5)