The Lovebirds review – comedy flies the coop

The Lovebirds has two immensely charming leads and a premise that should work, but it never manages to take flight.

Issa Rae (The Photograph) and Kumail Nanjiani (Men In Black: International) play Leilani and Jibran, a couple who’s seen their passion and love diminish over their four year relationship.

Just when they’re about to call it quits they become caught up in a murder mystery. Given the circumstances they are rightfully distrustful the police will buy their story and haphazardly attempt to crack the case to clear their name.

the lovebirds review - leilani and jabrani confront frat boy

Along the way they encounter a senator’s aid with a pan of bacon grease, a weird sex club, a smooth hacker and a frat boys party. These moments should provide ample comedic fodder, but few manage to bring more than a few chuckles.

The script, by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall, constantly disappoints and always takes the easy way out with ridiculously convenient timing and questionable decisions from characters to keep progressing the story.

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In some cases Leilani and Jibran act incredibly stupid just so they can get into another crazy situation. Situational comedies are hard to pull off when the characters continually make the wrong choice. Most of these scenarios aren’t the “how would a regular couple handle a world of espionage, shootouts and chases?” but more of a “what would any logical person do?”

the lovebirds review - leilani and jabrani on the trolley

It often feels like Director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) leaves it up to Rae and Nanjiani to improv a scene until it becomes funny. They’re game, but there feels like the strained attempt to make a scene work instead of it coming together in an organic manner.

While a tremendously refreshing pairing, the material doesn’t make for the best showcase of Rae and Nanjiani’s talents. It’s like they were placed in a 20 foot hole and instructed to climb out without a ladder and make it hilarious. They manage to carry scenes along but exert so much effort on that it showcases the lack of depth or humor in the script.

Given the weak nature of the hi-jinks, Abrams and Gall might have been better off spending some time exploring how things went so badly to push Leilani and Jibran apart. There’s some brief conversations touching on some of the issues, but they’re introduced and dismissed so quickly it’s hard to buy into this alleged irreparable relationship. That’s unfortunate as Rae and Nanjiani have shown in other films they can handle the complexities of a relationship on the rocks.

the lovebirds review - issa rae and kumail nanjiani

At 90 minutes the film has a short runtime on the plus side. The Lovebirds might be the victim of high expectations given its two stars and a nearly comprehensive failure to provide them a vehicle worth their effort. 

Rating: 5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Netflix

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