Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani star in The Lovebirds, an action/romantic comedy that’s nothing short of pure fun and joy from start to finish.
The Lovebirds review — B-
Of the many movies that will go down in history as quarantine flix, The Lovebirds adds its name to that. It’s a rescued project of sorts. First destined to run at SXSW, which was ultimately canceled. And then it was poised to have a run in theaters starting April 3. That was also, well, canceled in a way — due to theater shut-downs following the COVID-19 pandemic. And thus, Netflix came to the rescue to allow The Lovebirds a place to stream beginning May 29.
This film from director Michael Showalter stars Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani as Leilani and Jibran, a couple who’s just about reached the height of their relationship. But just as they’re calling it quits, they aren’t able to separate for good just yet. After accidentally hitting a biker who walks (or bikes) it off, a suspicious person carjacks them in pursuit of the biker and ends up killing the cyclist. Once the carjacker flees, it’s up to Leilani and Jibran to solve the mystery behind why the biker was killed and discover the deep, dark secrets brewing in the New Orleans underground… well, for them, it’s either solve the mystery and become heroes or risk turning themselves in to the cops.
The Lovebirds can be a slow-rolling film to get into. The first five to 10 minutes begins with the (un)happy couple arguing over things like whether they could win The Amazing Race — and starting off with a few hit-or-miss jokes sprinkled within their argument doesn’t necessarily make for the most thrilling opening. Perhaps it’s because it draws on a little longer than necessary, but it’s all to set up the relationship dynamic between the two (and drop in a couple of foreshadowing hints as well). After that, it becomes a delightful, enjoyable action-comedy movie that will keep you in suspense about what will happen next.
Rae and Nanjiani’s chemistry works so well on screen (and aside from their cinematically exaggerated goofiness), they feel like a real, down-to-earth couple. This isn’t James Bond or Jason Bourne trying to nail this mystery. Jibran works as a documentary filmmaker and Leilani’s in advertising — so to see them go up in hilarious interrogation scenes and stealthy stakeouts, it almost makes it feel slightly… relatable.
No, you hopefully wouldn’t be caught in the middle of a murder mystery. But if you and your significant other happened to find yourself in such unfortunate circumstances, you’d find yourself saying, “What would I do?” as well as, “It’d probably be exactly what Leilani and Jibran decided.” In one scene, for example, they have to pick between hot bacon grease to the face or a horse kick to the chest. It’s like the What Would You Do? of action comedies.
For Rae, she brings that same charm and hilarious quirkiness in this role that’s typical to Insecure or other recent roles like Little. It’s not to say now’s the time to switch it up and go off-genre. Sometimes a bit of familiarity is exactly what you need. Nanjiani basically plays the same role, as you learn throughout the movie that these lovebirds are one and the same, and it’s a shame that they’d want to call their relationship off. Between the two of them, the only thing that doesn’t work (comedy-wise) is how long their rambling can become once they find themselves in a tricky situation. It’s even acknowledged at some point how “annoying” they are — and it becomes a bit ironic to point out this joke that goes on for far too long.
As far as comedies, expect this to be good date-night fare or a good weekend watch. The plot isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, and there are certainly old tropes from comedy movies’ past. But at the same time, it’s a breath of fresh air to see this type of movie finally done with two diverse leads. It’s a rarity to see a movie with a black and brown couple (in the lead!), and it’s even better to know that the movie’s plot doesn’t revolve around their race or use other tired themes about interracial couples to drive the plot. There are a few race jokes thrown in here and there, but it’s not overdone.
What will ultimately win you over about this movie is how charming it is and seeing the progression of Leilani and Jibran’s relationship. You know they’re technically broken up while solving the crime, but boy if they aren’t the cutest amateur crime-fighters in all of New Orleans. Luckily, the movie doesn’t go on too long either. At just under 90 minutes, the movie hits all the right beats. It takes us on a thrill-ride with the couple’s relationship, and there’s even room for a little twist at the end. What more could you ask for?
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