Review: A night gone very wrong in ‘The Lovebirds’

Kumail Nanjiana (left) and Issa Rae co-star in “The Lovebirds.”

Editor’s note: With movie theaters closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Micheal Compton’s reviews will focus on films available for streaming or on demand.

“The Lovebirds” is a reunion of sorts between “The Big Sick” star and co-writer Kumail Nanjiani and director Michael Showalter. But for those looking for lightning to strike twice, “The Lovebirds” will be a disappointment as Nanjiani and co-star Issa Rae are unable to overcome a shaky script that sputters along at a slug’s pace.

Nanjiani and Rae play Jibran and Leilani, who fall madly in love as the film opens. Flash forward to four years later, and the relationship appears to be over with the couple constantly arguing. Just as it appears they have come to an agreement on ending the relationship, a stranger (Paul Sparks) jumps into their car and runs down a bicyclist – leaving the car to make it look like Jibran and Leilani are responsible for the murder.

This sends the couple on a desperate search to find the real killer and clear their names over the course of a crazy night that gets even more bizarre the further they delve into this murder mystery. The best line in the movie comes when one of the characters observes, “This is like ‘Amazing Race’ but with dead people.”

Nanjiani and Rae work well together, trading barbs throughout the whole ordeal, but they are given material that doesn’t match their ability.

The screenplay from Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall, with Martin Gero given a “story by” credit, throws a lot of rapid dialogue at viewers throughout the 87-minute run time, but a lot more jokes miss the mark than actually land, resulting in a film that fails to find consistency.

“The Lovebirds” feels a lot of times like it is just spinning its wheels, trying to be in the same vein as films like “Foul Play” and “Silver Streak” but nowhere near as clever.

Sparks and Anna Camp are among the supporting players who try to provide a little spark here or there, but ultimately the two leads are asked to provide much of the heavy lifting in “The Lovebirds.”

Najiani and Rae are up to the effort and are good enough that it makes me wonder what would have happened if Showalter would have just let his two funny and talented leads make up their own dialogue.

I think that film would have had a much better chance to work than the actual finished product.

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