The Lovebirds – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a jaded couple split up as they drive to visit friends. On the drive, they hit a cyclist. The cyclist gets up and jumps on his bike, refusing help. A man follows up and tells the couple he is a policeman and they need to pursue the cyclist. When the man kills the cyclist, the couple finds themselves on the run for murder and pulled into a blackmail conspiracy.

Is it any good?: The Lovebirds is, apparently, a comedy. It is awful. Starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, who are both adept comedians in their own right, The Lovebirds is a laborious, unfunny, forced, overly-contrived mess of a film. Somehow, it managed to score a six on IMDB. That is a score that is so much better than the film is. So much better!

Spoiler territory: Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) are immediately enamoured with one another after a night of passion and become a couple. Four years later, the couple finds themselves bickering and sniping at one another’s various foibles. As they drive to visit friends for a dinner party, they keep arguing.

They decide that their relationship is not working and split up. As they keep driving, a cyclist, Bicycle – highly imaginative with the names – (Nicholas X. Parsons) hits their windscreen. They get out of the car to see if Bicycle, is alright. He gets up, refusing help and jumps on to his bike, cycling off. Leilani notices that Bicycle has dropped his mobile and picks it up but he is gone.

The confused couple return to their car but are then surprised by another man, Moustache – another great name – (Paul Sparks), who says he is a policeman and needs to pursue the cyclist. They let him take control of the car, no questions asked and help in his chase, because one would.

All three go after the cyclist. After a short pursuit, Bicycle turns down an alley and Moustache has an unobstructed run at him. He runs over Bicycle. He then backs the car up over him and runs over him again killing him. Moustache gets out of the car and goes over and checks Bicycle’s body. He turns back to the couple, pulling a gun. They realise that they are in danger. The fact that he had just deliberately run someone over multiple times was not enough of a give away apparently.

Moustache runs off at the sound of sirens, leaving a scared Leilani and Jibran. A passing hipster couple (Barry Rothbart and Catherine Cohen), see the Bicycle’s corpse and see Leilani and Jibran next to him. They assume that they killed him. Leilani and Jibran babble incoherently, speaking over one another, as they try to explain their predicament. The hipsters call the police. Leilani and Jibran decide to run off because…otherwise the film would end.

They go to a diner and try to look at their options. Jibran thinks they should go to the police. Leilani convinces him that it is a bad idea because, once again, if they did that it would end the film. She does not say that.

She receives a call from Bobby (Jaren Mitchell). He wants to know where they are as the rest of the diner party guest have arrived. Leilani makes up an excuse. She receives another call. It is from Detective Mary Martin (Andrene Ward-Hammond). She has the car that is registered to Leilani. Leilani tries to pretend the car has been stolen, telling the detective she is at home but the waitress returns to their table and asks if they want anything else. Jibran throws her phone into a milkshake because it’s funny.

Convinced that the police want them for the murder of Bicycle, they try to look at their options. A message alert comes up on Bicycle’s phone – mobile phone as a plot device, not seen that for a while…. – it tells of a meeting with Edie (Anna Camp) at a bar. Leilani wants to follow the clue. Jibran is not so sure.

They decide to go and find Edie. They take a cab to the bar. At the bar, they – unnecessarily – decide to act normal, proceeding to act as conspicuous as possible. They get a text from Edie. She is on the balcony. They go and meet her. Edie tells them to follow her. As they leave the bar, they are knocked unconscious. The wake up in a barn, tied to a couple of chairs, with an irate Edie. She wants them to hand over the photographs – a McGuffin that goes absolutely nowhere – they do not know anything about any photos.

Edie does not believe them. She is convinced they are the ones blackmailing her husband, congressman Brett (Kyle Bornheimer). Edie decides to torture them because…it’s in the script. She gives Jibran two options; boiling bacon oil on the face or what is behind the door. Jibran picks the door. There is a horse behind the door and it kicks him. Har-de-haw.

Leilani opts for the oil but Jibran escapes and they both escape from the barn. They go to a store and end up changing into some garish garments because this is a comedy. They do not take the tags off so the cashier has to scan the clothes on them! Whilst they are wearing them! Oh, the hilarity never stops.

Jibran had found an address in the barn and they decide to go and find out…something? Oh yeah, the pictures. They also continue to discuss their relationship. They catch a cab to the address. They break into the apartment. They find it full of frat boys who are putting photographs into envelopes. Leilani and Jibran decide they need to get hold of some of the photos. One of the frat boys, Steve (Moses Storm), discovers them in his room and ends up fighting with Jibran. They overpower Steve and question him about what they are doing. Steve tells them that they are just paid to put the photographs in envelopes.

While they are questioning Steve, Moustache comes into the apartment and kills the other frat boys. Steve tries to escape and runs into Moustache. Moustache kills him. Leilani and Jibran, having grabbed an envelope of photos, hide. Moustache does not see them. They escape from the apartment.

They look at the photos but they do not know what they are about. Neither do we but we could guess. It really does not matter. Jibran says they need to get into Bicycle’s phone but do not have the passcode. One of the people at the party they were on their way to – several hours before – can help, Leilani tells him. Jibran is not happy to find out it is Bobby (Jaren Mitchell), someone he is convinced she fancies. So there is that.

They go to the party and spin a stupid yarn about going to a boxing class before coming to the party. They can show a video of Jibran getting knocked out. It’s on Jibran’s phone. The party all want to see it. Jibran, due to taking so many punches, cannot remember his passcode. Bobby unlocks the phone.

Nobody wants to see the video or even asks about it. Surprise. Jibran finds an invite for a secret party on the phone. He tells Leilani and they borrow more formal clothing and attend the party. At the secret location, everybody wears a face mask. After a few drinks, the entire party decamp to an auditorium. Every member of the party has a paddle with a number on it.

A couple of men come to the stage dressed in robes and also in masks. They call out numbers, in a lottery fashion, and people start coming down to the stage. Leilani and Jibran watch the spectacle unfold, curious as to what is going on. The people who were called to the stage all start having an orgy. The orgy is interrupted by the men with robes.

They tell the gathered that there is a traitor amongst them. Leilani and Jibran, knowing they are the traitors, look around nervously. The robed man says that everyone has to remove their mask. Only Leilani and Jibran remove their masks, thus revealing themselves to be the traitors. The gathered mass begins to converge on them. An alarm goes off and they all scurry, leaving the confused couple in the auditorium.

The police come into the auditorium. At the police station, detective Martin tells them that traffic cams showed they did not kill anybody. They had turned up at the party to catch the secret society. Okay. She tells them that she just needs them to give a statement at a later date and they can go home. A police officer will take them home.

In the car, the police officer turns out to be Moustache. He is going to kill them but has to give out all the exposition first. After confessing and whining about money, he takes them to a dock. He plans to shoot them but they escape from their bonds and fight with him. Leilani ends up with his gun. Moustache grabs Jibran and threatens to snap his neck. Jibran ducks out of the way and Leilani shoots him.

The police come and arrest Moustache – he was not dead – and Leilani and Jibran get back together. A year later they are competing in The Amazing Race. The final task is to get on a horse. The end.

Final thoughts: The Lovebirds is a painful watch. The film is only eighty-eight minutes long but is so mis-paced that it feels longer. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are expected to work too hard to make an unfunny script work and the directing from Michael Showalter is pretty nonexistent beyond keeping the cameras in focus and occasionally changing camera angles.

The script by Aaron Abraham and Brendan Gall is poor. The McGuffin of prominent people being blackmailed by a bike courier and policeman and Leilani and Jibran getting pulled into this arbitrary nonsense in the most ham-fisted, unimaginative way possible, is too convoluted.

A comedy is meant to be funny. Having two talented comedic actors as your leads should help in that regard but a bad script with a weak premise will counteract any other element in a project.

The Lovebirds is not a rom-com or a farce but tries to shoehorn elements of those two genres into the film. Lacking any sparkling witticisms, The Lovebirds is a dull, plodding, ill-considered effort of a comedy. Give it a miss.

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