Courtesy of Paramount/Netflix
Coming off the heels of “The Big Sick,” “Silicon Valley,” and last summer’s criminally underrated “Stuber,” Kumail Nanjiani is starting to find his groove and transition from comic sidekick to leading man, and in Michael Showalters’ new Netflix comedy “The Lovebirds” - originally slated as a pre-summer theatrical release - Nanjiani is given a worthy co-star in Issa Rae who paired together give this pandemic infused world a much needed jolt of laughter.
Showalter - who directed “The Big Sick” - is arguably given his biggest budget to date, and it’s not wasted, delivering a silly, and heartwarming tale about a bickering New Orleans couple whose lives change forever in one evening. Reminiscent of “Date Night” which featured Steve Carell and Tina Fey, “The Lovebirds” strives on the improvisational tactics of its co-leads who spew one zinger after the other and then concludes with a satirical take on an orgy that could have been removed from “Eyes Wide Shut.”
As the opening of “The Lovebirds” suggests: Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Rae) were once the token couple who sat in the booths at restaurants exchanging googly eyes and a kiss. However, four years later, they’re arguing about if they could win first place on “The Amazing Race,” which, not so ironically, could be a vague description of this harmless and often very funny romp. Their constant back and forth results in the two breaking up on the way to a dinner party. Then, in some twisted turn of fate, a few dumb mistakes leaves the two in an ally with a shattered windshield, a rotting corpse, and targets on their backs. Obviously, these two aren’t murderers, but who would believe their story? So the lovebirds set-out to clear their names, following a bread-crumb trail that leads to a frat house, southern psychos, and an Illuminati cult.
The screenplay by Aaron Abrhams, Brendan Gall, and Martin Gero doesn’t have the sweetness factor of “The Big Sick” but it does have the energy to keep the blood boiling and laughs hurling. They put this odd couple in one insane scenario after the other, including a car chase, a handful of well-timed escapes and some full-blown pratfalls too good to spoil. Nanjiani and Rae prove a suitable match for their talents, who are both clearly in their comfort zones, complete with goofy side-line conversations (an exchange in a diner about how milkshakes are served is a riot). But the key to “The Lovebirds” success is that we believe their relationship and want it to grow, and that’s the most exciting aspect this romantic comedy gives us, next to their infectious smiles.
Showalter and company aren’t trying to redefine the romantic comedy genre, nor was anyone asking them too. Instead, they give two established stars the tools and freedom to land on the right notes and send “The Lovebirds” flying high.
THE LOVEBIRDS lands on Netflix Friday May 22nd.