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MOVIE GUY — Gifted comics Nanjiani, Rae save ‘Lovebirds’

The Lovebirds

Netflix Films

Directed by Michael Showalter

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

Rated R

2 Stars

I was looking forward to watching The Lovebirds when it premiered at this year’s South-by-Southwest film festival. Alas, SXSW2020 was cancelled, leaving the film to premiere two months later over on Netflix.

Better late than never.

The Lovebirds is a zany little movie that works because of the undeniable charm and talent of Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani in the central roles. They play a couple whose relationship is falling apart, but that will prove to be the least of their problems after a man claiming to be a police officer commandeers their car to chase down a bike messenger. He catches up and proceeds to run over the cyclist, all with the astonished couple sitting helplessly in the car.

Things go from bad to worse when a hipster couple arrives to find the couple standing over the dead body. You’ll need to suspend your disbelief as they decide to solve the crime, rather than try to explain everything to the police. Yeah, it doesn’t make much logical sense, but go with it because that decision leads to an outrageous adventure that has everything from thrilling action sequences to crazy wardrobe issues to an Eyes Wide Shut-type orgy, most of which proves to be quite funny.

Nanjiani and Rae are a hoot throughout all of this. He’s mastered the art of an outraged outburst where he uses rapid monologues in a vain attempt to cover his panic. Not to be outdone, she’s more than able to match him quip for quip. You get the real sense that this is a couple who has been together long enough to know how to get under each other’s skin, which leads to some cruel-but-funny moments.

I’m also a big fan of allowing this Pakistani-American and African American couple to comment on the experience without turning the film into a high-minded message film. They are simply a diverse couple with some unique takes on their experiences, but it’s not the driving force behind the movie.

All of which means that The Lovebirds has interesting characters who also happen to be very funny. Their zany adventure might cause some people to roll their eyes, but those who can roll with this strange story will be rewarded with a fun night at the movies — even if your night out is still at home on your couch.

It’s a bit of a shame because I can envision this film generating big laughs in a crowded movie theater. It would have been a riotous hit for the young-and hip crowd at SXSW, but it still has enough charm to work at home as well.

The Lovebirds will begin streaming on Netflix on May 22.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week in The Port Arthur News and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@sbgtv.com.