Review by Sean Boelman
Teaming up two of the most exciting comedic talents of the moment, director Michael Showalter’s The Lovebirds was set for a theatrical release this spring, but ended up selling to Netflix instead after the closure of theaters. While it’s admittedly disappointing that audiences won’t get to see this surprisingly idiosyncratic comedy on the big screen, it’s the type of escapist relief that audiences need right now.
The film follows a young couple as they find themselves on the run after witnessing a murder and becoming suspects themselves, throwing them into a web of criminals. Even though the premise is something that has been done time and time again in action comedies such as this, the script by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall offers some unexpected twists and turns along the way that will throw viewers off the scent.
Perhaps what is most impressive about the movie is how thoroughly suspenseful it is. Even though it’s pretty clear where the film will ultimately end up, audiences will be kept on the edge of their seats as the characters make the wrong moves over and over again. The stakes are raised admirably high in the beginning of the movie with an action sequence that sets a great pace for what is to come.
Of course, as one would expect, there’s plenty of humor in the film, and at under an hour and a half in length, the movie never stops entertaining. Granted, many of the very funniest bits were revealed in the trailers, but there’s still a lot of laughs here. The film is definitely at its funniest when it isn’t afraid to go all-in on the edgier elements of the story, embracing its raunchiness.
A significant part of what makes the movie so effective is the chemistry between its two leads, Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae. Both are more popular than ever right now with no sign of slowing down. Even though they have very different senses of humor, their two personalities clash very well, creating a hilarious dynamic at the core of the film.
If there is one thing missing from the movie, it is substantial world-building. Admittedly, this would have been difficult given the film’s extremely short runtime, but there are some interesting ideas introduced in the third act that are left undeveloped, likely for the purpose of subverting the audience’s expectations.
On a technical level, the movie is mostly solid. There’s a lot more ambition in play here than the typical studio comedy, especially in the third act that is much more stylized. The soundtrack here is also great, often used in a way that is contrapuntal to what is happening on screen to comedic effect.
The Lovebirds isn’t exactly what audiences would expect from the trailers. Instead, it’s something much edgier and more ambitious, and even though it doesn’t always pay off, it’s an entertaining watch regardless.
The Lovebirds streams on Netflix beginning May 22.