“The Lovebirds” is a comedy vehicle for two of HBO’s rising stars. Issa Rae is the boundary-pushing creator of the current series “Insecure” while Kumail Nanjiani is best known for his awkwardly funny work on “Silicon Valley” and for writing probably the most likable romantic comedy in recent years, “The Big Sick.”
His director for that movie, Michael Showalter, directs them here in a film of 2 people whose love life has turned to constant bickering. Leilani (Rae) thinks they need to spice things up by going on “The Amazing Race”. Jibran (Nanjiani) hates the fact they need to schedule their sex.
It’s a love affair circling the drain when the two are hijacked and then implicated in a homicide, which forces them to have to solve the crime themselves and clear their names.
The operative term here is “forced.” Right at the moment of them running for their lives, I wrote down the word “Date Night”, as in the Steve Carell, Tina Fey flick where they go through the tired premise of meeting all sorts of psychotic, eccentric characters in order to work out the fish-out of water situation they’ve stumbled themselves into.
That Rae is black and Nanjiani is of Indian descent leads to some edgier racial comedy but “Lovebirds” doesn't even have the balls to stay with it very long. Mostly these two are left to mumble their way through the encounters with the psychos and a pretty tamely shot “Eyes Wide Shut” sex party, tediously pretend to hood in one other scene, and participate in poorly conceived slapstick. In one scene, Nanjiani gets kicked by a horse, the shock of which doesn't even work that well because the movie allows us time to know its coming.
Rae and Nanjiani are made to stumble and fumble their way through all this, looking more like they’re trying to eke out some chemistry and laughs than as two scared, on-the-run people. But no one would give a crap about believability in a film like this if it were actually funny. The failure lies not so much with them but in an uninspired screenplay. Even for just a forgettable fish out of water comedy, the situations here feel more like going through the motions than pushing the ridiculous as far as it will go.
For two comedic actors who have routinely done the latter in their shows, acts, and other movies, “The Lovebirds” is a pretty weak, lame thing to want to put their names on the marquee for.