If you’re looking for a buddy comedy to wrap your laughing gear around, then Netflix is the place to go. So far this year, the streaming titan has already rolled out Spenser Confidential (Mark Wahlberg teamed with Winston Duke), Coffee & Kareem (The Hangover’s Ed Helms vs. some kid) and most recently, The Wrong Missy (shaggy-haired sitcom-er David Spade and the underappreciated Lauren Lapkus). Apart from the much-used format, each film also shares something else in common – they’re not very good. But Netflix’s next bash at the genre, romantic murder mystery The Lovebirds, is a cut above the competition.
Set in New Orleans, the romcom-cum-action-thriller stars Issa Rae (Insecure) and Kumail Nanjiani (The Eternals) as a couple whose flame has fizzled. After a cringey meet cute in which Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Rae) are introduced to the viewer, we skip ahead several years – they now share a flat, are constantly criticising each other and have clearly grown bored of shagging. What’s needed are a few fireworks to blow away the cobwebs in their comfy relationship. Enter Paul Sparks (House Of Cards). Expertly cast as a beardy bloke with a silenced pistol, the seasoned actor commandeers our protagonists’ car after they accidentally hit a cyclist. With them still in it – and rather enjoying the unexpected thrill ride – he chases down said cyclist, and then runs him over. About five times. He’s obviously not the cop he claimed to be, and once he scarpers, Jibran and Leilani are left with a dead body to explain. In order to clear their names, they must track down the baddies who ordered the hit, and bring them to justice. What follows is a witty send-up of the genre that benefits greatly from its two leads’ electric chemistry.
Coming three years after Nanjiani’s Hollywood coming-out party The Big Sick, you’d be forgiven for hoping this is more of the same. That movie was nearly perfect – a cleverly written trope-less flick that proved to ignorant studio heads that romcoms could be financially lucrative without two white people as the focus. Even rarer for the film world, The Lovebirds is about an interracial couple that doesn’t include a caucasian. Add to that a fearless script that includes gags about Europe, “white women fingers” and scheduled freaky sex, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a hilarious buddy comedy that feels like a fresh, unique addition to the family.
Of course, The Lovebirds isn’t flawless – the plot is a bit irrelevant and it sometimes veers towards cheesiness – but such is the gleeful sense of fun on display that you never really care where the characters are going, as long as you can tag along. Perhaps the best example of this is when Jibran and Leilani sing Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ in a cab during the last leg of their amateur investigation. It’s a classic pop banger, and we defy you not to join in with the chorus – but what’s most enjoyable is how relatable their situation is. On the verge of a break-up and desperate for life to return to normal, they still have to stick together in order to get the job done. As couples around the globe enter a third month of isolation, there’ll no doubt be plenty who see their own wilting partnerships reflected back at them in Jibran and Leilani. Let’s hope The Lovebirds helps them come out smiling.
- Director: Michael Showalter
- Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Paul Sparks
- Released: May 22 (Netflix)