Netlfix's purchased rom-com starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani runs out of energy too fast.
'The Lovebirds' follows a couple on-the-run (Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani) after they witness a murder. Michael Showalter directs Paul Sparks, Anna Camp, and Kyle Bornheimer also star.
Originally scheduled to be theatrically released by Paramount in April, this film was delayed because of the coronavirus (maybe you've heard it it?) closing theaters around the country. Netflix then swooped in and purchased the rights, and chose to release it digitally (not unlike Tom Hanks' 'Greyhound' which was bought by Apple TV). An interesting choice to be sure (this by-default becomes one of the cleaner-shot comedies put out by the streaming service), but despite the charm and comedic timing of its two stars, 'The Lovebirds' runs out of jokes and steam too quickly, despite only running a brisk 87 minutes.
The 'trying to escape the cops in a single night because of a misunderstanding' storyline has been done before, finding success in both the comedic ('Date Night') and dramatic ('Run All Night') genres. To succeed you have to be able to justify so many events in such a small window and have actors who can carry a thin concept, and while the other two films I mentioned have those things, 'Lovebirds' only has one.
No one seems to be working harder in the industry right now than Issa Rae, starring in numerous films like 'Little' and 'The Photograph' and continuing to write, produce, and star in her HBO show 'Insecure.' Her winning smile and sharp timing are benefits here, taking even the most basic line of dialogue and adding a glance or under-the-breath comment to it. She has some nice back-and-forth with Kumail Nanjiani, an Oscar nominee for his 'The Big Sick' script (also directed by Michael Showalter), and he is his normal hit-and-miss self. When Nanjiani is on, he has great delivery and the perfect amount of over-acting; but he can also swing and miss at jokes, and that happens in several scenes here.
The script (written by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall) has some clever jokes, but so many of them come in the first 45 minutes. By the time Rae and Nanjiani have made their second or third pitstop, the film begins to run on fumes. Showalter seems content to just let things play out in a basic way, and while the film moves pretty quick (again, it's less than 90 minutes), there is no true sense of momentum or energy.
'The Lovebirds' is a perfectly watchable film that did make me chuckle on several occasions (I even laughed out loud hard at one joke), but its script and premise never fully commit to the possible zaniness, nor does it have enough jokes to last its runtime. While at this point I would kill to be able to see anything in a theater again, 'The Lovebirds' is a quintessential Netflix film; quick, simple, and easily forgettable. I didn't hate myself for watching it, I just wish that I came away feeling… something.
Critics Rating: 5/10