There is no more reliable way to spark up a stale and deteriorating relationship than an old-fashioned murder mystery. In fact, didn’t Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston do this exact thing last year in Murder Mystery? The purpose of combining the rom-com with murder most foul is never the mystery. Rather, this formulaic partnering primarily serves to showcase the talents of the film’s stars. To that end, Netflix’s fun and funny The Lovebirds allows the extremely likable pair of Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani to throw some of their good nature our way.
A prologue introduces us to the initial stages of Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani’s (Rae) salad days of falling in love and dating. It’s very sweet and clear that Jibran and Leilani are made for each other. Then, a title card flashes: “Four Years Later.” Jibran and Leilani, predictably, are at each other’s throats, and their previously idyllic relationship is on the express train to Splitsville. On the way to another couple’s apartment party, the two, indeed, break up.
“…embroiled in a threadbare plot concerning dirty cops, illicit photos, a clandestine sex cult…”
Having seen this sort of movie before, the audience comprehends that their break up is simply a ruse to inject our hopelessly-in-love couple into a situation that will test their compatibility and eventually cause their union to emerge stronger than ever. No sooner than the two can say, “It’s not working,” than Jibran accidentally nails a bicyclist with his car while he and Leilani are on their way to the apartment party. It turns out, the bicyclist is a bad guy, followed by a different villain, and before you know it, Jibran and Leilani are embroiled in a threadbare plot concerning dirty cops, illicit photos, a clandestine sex cult, and other well-worn murder mystery tropes.
The Lovebirds comes to us courtesy of director Michael Showalter, who co-wrote the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer and directed Nanjiani’s breakout hit The Big Sick. Here Showalter is working from a script by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall. The Lovebirds has that same sort of freewheeling lightheartedness about it as that summer camp-set comedy. Neither film even pretends to want to be taken seriously. Showalter keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, fashioning the movie in a manner meant to resemble an Amazing Race-style format of getting from clue-to-clue as quickly as possible. Heck, the characters even reference that couples-based reality show on more than one occasion.