The Lovebirds (2020)
Directed by Michael Showalter
One of the most notable victims of the coronavirus-shuttered box office is director Michael Showalter’s “The Lovebirds,” which moved to Netflix amid the chaos. The comedy teams Showalter with his “Big Sick” star Kumail Nanjiani…once you add in comedy icon Issa Rae, it seems like “The Lovebirds” should have been a fun summer comedy. But while “The Big Sick” was written by Kumail and his wife, Emily Gordon, “The Lovebirds” was tackled by three unproven newcomers…and, unfortunately, they still have a lot to prove.
After four years of dating, Jibron (Kumail Najiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) see their relationship crumbling in front of them. On their way to a party—what might have been their last as a couple—their car is hijacked by what they’re told is a cop (Paul Sparks), who proceeds to use it in a vehicular homicide. That begins a wild night of evading police and trying to solve the mystery of the crime they’ve now been implicated in.
My memory of 2010’s “Date Night”—back when Tina Fey was still regularly starring in movies—is hazy, but I remember that Tina Fey and Steve Carell’s characters were out on a date when they were caught up in some illegal activity and had to run around the city avoiding capture or solving a crime or something. Anyway, I fear that in another ten years, my memory of “Date Night” will melt into my memory of “The Lovebirds” so thoroughly that I’ll swear Mark Wahlberg and Kumail Nanjiani starred in the same movie (they should, though, because I think they’d be a good comedy team). “The Lovebirds” is unoriginal in its story and its script. Even last year’s “Queen and Slim”—though obviously a drama (a very good one, if you hadn’t heard)—had the same kind of vibe. But worse than being unoriginal, the screenplay is also built on a series of stupid choices. The writers’ choices, sure, but also the characters’ choices. Never once do the main characters do the right thing in the situations they’re put in. If they had, “The Lovebirds” could have been (mercifully) much, much shorter.
Yet, I can’t take anything away from the movie’s leads. Kumail and Issa have medically precise comedic timing and cute chemistry. Had “The Lovebirds” been written by someone like Tina Fey or even Paul Feig, the movie might have been an enjoyable way to pass an hour and a half on Netflix. The way it is, though, I can’t recommend it. That’s a crying flying shame.