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The Lovebirds struggles to rise above its formulaic plot.

The Lovebirds★★

Staring: Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Paul Sparks, Anna Camp, and Kyle Bornheimer

Direction: Michael Showalter

Tagline: All they wanted was a quiet night out.

With global movie theatres shut down amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, several films that would have currently been playing in cinemas have instead moved to digital platforms, reaching viewers via online streaming and rental services.

Michael Showalter’s The Lovebirds is among the projects that have had to contend with a web release, foregoing big screen showings and finding a home on Netflix instead. It may actually be fortuitous for everyone involved though that this project has landed on the streamer – this rom-com mystery would really not have been worth a trip to the cinema but is still amicable enough to while away a lazy afternoon in the comfort of your own couch.

The Lovebirds revisits the familiar “couple lands in the middle of a seedy situation” scenario that has already been employed before by other movies (like the fairly recent Date Night and Game Night) to more entertaining results.

The protagonists in this instance are reality TV enthusiast Leilani (Issa Rae) and documentary filmmaker Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani), a dysfunctional pair who bicker so much you’d immediately think they’d be better off apart, a conclusion they soon arrive at themselves. Breaking up while on their way to a friend’s party, their night goes from bad to worse when the hit a guy on a bicycle in their car. Things take an even more sinister turn when a man claiming to be a cop (Paul Sparks) commandeers their vehicle, chases the injured bicyclist, and then proceeds to run him over several times.

Worried that they’ll be seen as the prime suspects for the murder, they flee the scene, setting off on a silly journey as they try to figure out what conspiracy is actually afoot.

Will they be able to clear their names? And will they rekindle their romance along the way? You can easily guess the answer to both these questions. It’s all very formulaic and the overall arc of the main characters is fairly predictable. The Lovebirds simply puts together a few generic building blocks and hopes its screwball comedy will keep the project afloat. But a few chuckle-worthy quips can’t hide the fact that nothing about the project is strikingly original or memorable.

Where the film does set itself apart is in its casting, and it is refreshing that a Hollywood movie is centred on an interracial relationship between two people of colour. Rae is a delight, and it’s wonderful to see the Pakistani-American Nanjiani making his mark in Hollywood; it is, however, disappointing that the film doesn’t give its leads the time or opportunity to really develop their chemistry. The material they are working with just isn’t very strong and their chatter often feels forced, plus their characters’ romantic bond – or even the reason why they are together at all – is lacking.

The Lovebirds will mildly entertain you for an hours and a half while leaving little if any impression beyond that. And while this is ultimately just another in a sea of middling Netflix movies, at least the streaming service has saved you an underwhelming trip to the cinema.

Rating system: ★Not on your life ★ ½ If you really must waste your time ★★ Hardly worth the bother ★★ ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only ★★★ Good enough for a look see ★★★ ½ Recommended viewing ★★★★ Don’t miss it ★★★★ ½ Almost perfect ★★★★★ Perfection

In the picture