Not unlike fellow Netflix offering Murder Mystery, The Lovebirds adopts the tried and true premise of regular-folk-get-mixed-up-in-a-major-crime and hopes it has enough of a strong centre to overcome any unoriginality. And whilst the screenplay from Aaron Abrams (a sometimes-actor whose credits include Resident Evil: Apocalypse and The Open House) and Brendan Gall (TV’s Blindspot) doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence, the combined charisma of Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae is bright enough to keep us an audience tethered to their brisk 86 minute operation.
The film – one of the many theatrical casualties of COVID-19, having seen its original Paramount-distributed April release cancelled in the wake of the pandemic – opens on the morning after Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani’s (Rae) first date. It’s impossibly cute, and the duo sell it hard that these are two people who fell for each other in the most natural but passionate manner, but a “four years later” cut-to paints them as the picture of a couple who have lost their spark and have settled for arguments over nothing; it would seem Leilani’s hypothetical desire to appear on The Amazing Race is the latest catalyst for a nonsensical row.
On their way to a party that Jibran is less-than-enthused about attending, the realisation that their union has run its course hits the duo with a metaphorical thud. Literally speaking however, the two unintentionally collide with a bike rider. The rider seems unnaturally eager to keep on cycling, despite his injuries, and the presence of another man claiming to be an undercover police officer further fuels his anticipation to leave. A quick car chase and several run-overs later, Jibran and Leilani are left in the suspicious position of having a battered car and a very deceased bike messenger at their feet, something that dippy passerby interpret as a crime scene, with our titular lovebirds the culprits.
What follows is a standard narrative, with the two trying to piece together who the victim was, why the supposed police office wanted him dead, and how exactly are they going to prove their innocence. And if they just so happen to rekindle their relationship along the way, so be it. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve most likely put everything together, and if Nanjiani and Rae weren’t as deliriously charming as they are, we’d be inclined to not give the film the benefit of the doubt, but we ultimately do because they are just so damn likeable.
With comedic styles that often go hand-in-hand – and it’s a testament to them both that they have built careers for themselves in comedy without resorting to mean-spirited humour – and an innate naturality to both their delivery and their dynamic, we readily go on this preposterous journey because they constantly ground it in a sense of reality due to their situational reactions. It’s just a shame that their talent couldn’t be utilised in a better movie; for a heightened premise that works, see Game Night.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Lovebirds is streaming now on Netflix