Expectations were high while reviewing my first film since the beginning of the stay-at-home quarantine, and even though "The Lovebirds" is a mindless diversion, it still doesn't quite sing.
Ahhhh, it feels good to be back. It's been over two months since I've reviewed a movie - or truth be told, have watched ANY movie - due to the coronavirus pandemic. It hasn't been for lack of opportunity...while there are of course no movie theaters right now, there have been a bevy of movies that are seeing release, albeit on streaming and On Demand services. For a time, I'd been turning down movie review requests...at first I just was in shock and a bit of denial that theatrical movies were temporarily erased from the face of the planet. But then my shock turned to disinterest towards the batch of new films that didn't seem worthy to occupy my time, not with other pressing priorities like, you know, figuring out how to provide for my family and keeping a roof over all of our heads.
But Michael Showalter has always had an affect on me. The comedian producer/writer/actor turned director has always been a person whose work I've felt drawn into. As an original cast member on MTV's "The State," Michael was one of my heroes during high school. When he and David Wain produced "Wet Hot American Summer," and the two Netflix series that followed, it was more proof that I'd follow this guy anywhere. His 2015 film "Hello, My Name is Doris" - in which he wrote and directed - is a gem of a picture and one of the best films you probably haven't seen (you should - it's currently on Amazon Prime). Then there was his follow-up film, 2017's "The Big Sick," one of the best pictures of that year, a movie that was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (the nomination was for Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, although Showalter directed the film).
RELATED: Read Tom's Review of "The Big Sick" on his BEST OF 2017 list
RELATED: Read Tom's Review of "Hello, My Name is Doris"
So what better film to jump back into the game with than a Michael Showalter comedy? A victim of the pandemic, "The Lovebirds" was actually produced by Paramount Pictures with an original release date of late April 2020, but was pushed to Netflix as many other, smaller films have been. But because of Showalter's involvement, it was one that I had been looking forward to seeing with probably some unrealistic expectations.
Nanjiani re-teams with Showalter, pairing up with rising star Issa Rae, the Golden Globe and Emmy nominated actress from HBO's "Insecure." "The Lovebirds" script comes to us by acting trio Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall and Martin Gero.
Watching a movie - ANY movie - felt good. I had been more than 60 days sober. I needed my fix. Factoring in some of that need, "The Lovebirds" felt good...it's a fairly shallow, straight-forward and predictable romantic-action-comedy that works mostly as a distraction...but who couldn't use a bit of a distraction right now? Nanjiani and Rae play an on-the-rocks couple who break up, literally, at the exact moment they are sucked into a murder plot involving a "bicycle," a "mustache," several frat-boys and an underground "Eyes Wide Shut" sex cult made up of local politicians and influential citizens. Sounds promising, right?
As much as I wanted to love "The Lovebirds" - and trust me, I was primed to love it based on my love of Michael Showalter - it landed more as the movie I needed, more than the movie I wanted. Trying to filter out my recent movie-drought and the high expectations I set for the film though, I couldn't help but feel disappointed in the end result. Sure, there are laughs, many of them in fact, but for nearly every joke that works there are two that don't. Showalter has always worked within some pretty implausible stuff (just go watch "Wet Hot"...), but the vibe of "The Lovebirds" doesn't quite balance out. Nanjiani and Rae are funny, but they are asked to do ALL of the heavy-lifting. This film could have really benefited from the inclusion of some strong, funny supporting characters, but there are zero. Like none.
It's a bit too clean, too tidy for my sensibilities, so when stripping it all away, "The Lovebirds" is a film that would have normally left me disappointed...especially up against "Doris" or "The Big Sick." I don't think it has any re-watch value, which is key when you're considering "worthy" comedies.
But that being said, it's not all bad. "The Lovebirds" feels right at home on Netflix, the sort of movie I think people may end up enjoying much more from the comfort of their couches than they would have had this movie seen theatrical release under normal circumstances. But it's very middling. Speaking of "under normal circumstances," it's the kind of movie that I'd have forgotten all about in my previous life, but one that will now always be remembered as my first post-apocalyptic foray back into the movie reviewing arena.
Genre: Comedy, Action, Romance.
Run Time: 1 hour 26 minutes.
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Paul Sparks.
Directed by Michael Showalter ("The Big Sick," "Hello, My Name is Doris").
"The Lovebirds" is available on Netflix as of Friday, May 22nd, 2020.
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