Entertainment » Movies

Review: Even With Committed Performances, These "Lovebirds" Remain Flightless

by Padraic Maroney
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday May 21, 2020
'The Lovebirds'
'The Lovebirds'  

When does date night become something more than just a simple outing for dinner or movie? Well, it happens when the outing gets hi-jacked and taken on a night beyond their wildest dreams in an effort to clear their names. It's a well-worn trope for comedies, and the new Netflix film "The Lovebirds" adds a few laughs but not much else to the tried-and-true formula.

One thing that does set this film apart from similar films that came before it, like "Date Night" a decade earlier, is that the central characters — the so-called lovebirds — are at a crossroads in their relationship after a four-year courtship and decide to break up early in the first act. While on their way to a dinner party, their plans are put on hold when their car is commandeered by a police officer chasing a suspect. Upon catching up to the perp, quickly realize something is amiss by the time the officer runs over the suspect a third time.

Leilani (Issa Rae, "Insecure") and Jibran (Kumail Nanjani, "The Big Sick") soon find themselves on the run, assuming that they will be fingered as the killers. What follows doesn't really make much sense. There's a series of misadventures that inexplicably leads the pair to a blackmail scheme, a sex cult, and multiple cases of mistaken identity.

Set in New Orleans, the film doesn't take advantage of any of the natural chaos that could have naturally lent itself to the film. Marketing materials show Rae and Nanjani posing in front of imagery from the French Quarter, but for some reason, the film never really ventures into that part of the city. It might have been a nightmare to film on Bourbon Street, but think of the hi-jinx that could ensue from a scene on the infamous locale.

Screenwriters Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall seem to have slapped the script together without much thought about what their characters were doing. Both come from a television background, which explains the episodic feel that the film has. But they don't offer any depth or really much explanation as to what is going on. You could strain to try to think of rationales, but thinking there is some hidden, deep meaning to the film would be giving the pair too much credit. The film has as much depth as an episode of "Watch What Happens Live."

An interesting aspect of the film is seeing how general bickering and picking at each other, which is normally seen as harmless jokes, can end up eroding a relationship over time. Leilani and Jibran still have feelings for each other but have become exhausted by their partner. It's a realistic look at relationships and their evolution. Unlike many movies that drop you into the crumbling aspect of their relationship, "The Lovebirds" opens by showing how in love they were initially. This offers more context into them as a couple, but also provides a little more information about them as individuals too.

The saving grace for "The Lovebirds" is the onscreen chemistry between Rae and Nanjani. The bickering between the two feels completely natural, as if they have known each other their entire lives. That both of them have backgrounds in writing and specifically comedy helps you to actually feel like you are just watching the actors just being themselves arguing with each other.

While the leads are utilized to the best of their abilities, the supporting cast is thrown away. Anna Camp ("Pitch Perfect") shows up as a politician's wife, but almost her entire role is given away in the trailers. Having a solid bench of supporting players to use throughout the film would have helped elevate the film and added a few more laughs.

With a barely-there thread stringing the series of events together, "The Lovebirds" plot nearly implodes from its own lack of cohesion. Without the leads being so committed to their characters, the film would be dead on arrival. Thankfully, they are able to provide enough laughs to keep boredom from creeping in during the trim 87 minutes that the film runs. Nevertheless, these birds are offering up an undercooked meal that only momentarily satisfied before quickly leaving you craving something more fulfilling.

Comments on Facebook