New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: The Lovebirds

Not your best romcom, but Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae make this film a pleasant distraction. Both Nanjiani and Rae are enormously talented, but the comedy is not as funny as it should have been. They do get to show off some action moves but Director Michael Showalter’s film has a ridiculous, forced premise. You know from the get go that this bickering couple will finally get back together. It’s a genre that’s been done over and over again, all the way back to Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. 

Rae and Nanjiani are cute together using their deft ability of improv to enhance scenes, but often talk over each other at the joke’s expense. Most of the screen time is only of their back and forth together. The few characters that make short appearances to interact with the leads aren’t given much shrift. Some of that seems intentional to keep you watching to find out who the ne’er-do-wells are, but it’s too thin. And set in New Orleans, you’re never really given a sense that you’re in this picturesque setting. There’s no NOLA ambiance. 

We see bickering lovebirds, Leilani and Jibran, on the brink of breaking up over her harebrained notion that they could be contestants and win The Amazing Race. While Jibran is driving, they hit a guy on a bicycle. They freak out. But it gets worse. 

They get carjacked by a guy with a moustache (Paul Sparks) who takes them on a wild ride going after Bicycle guy. When he catches him, Bicycle guy is used as a speed bump not once, not two, but too many times, with our couple in the car. Now, they’ve not only witnessed a murder, they realize they could get framed for it.

The rest of their film is trying to prove their innocence and find each other again, under desperate circumstances. There are some funny scenes but some are just too silly. Just their tête-a-tête in the diner where they’re trying to figure out their next moves shows some chemistry. They end up with milk shakes instead of much needed hard liquor. Having a conversation about the leftover milk shake in the container that’s always too big plays more like an observational standup comedy bit. Nanjiani’s humor frequently dwells on the silliness of ordinary things which pops up several times in this film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work here. 

Issa Rae is very animated. She gets to play way over the top and is much more fun to watch in contrast to Nanjiani’s drole, understated presence. Their big action scene with a tough cookie named Edie (Anna Camp- Pitch Perfect) and a horse is weak. What should landed a laugh, lands with a thud. And the theater scene with masked cultists that telegraphs impending doom doesn’t land well either. 

It’s sad that these talented actors were saddled with a premise that ended up being an ineffectual series of bits. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are two very likable actors who bounce off each other well. These lovebirds deserve a better tale to show off that good chemistry.

Netflix      1 hour 26 minutes           R

from Movies and Shakers

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