The Lovebirds (3 stars)

The Lovebirds

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are the titular twosome in an enjoyably silly comic caper

A murder mystery provides the glue with which to mend a broken relationship in a chaotic caper, starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani. Reuniting Nanjiani and The Big Sick's director Michael Showalter (also known for Wet Hot American Summer and Search Party) and in the mould of Date Night, Game Night et al, The Lovebirds is a sometimes stuttering but more often amusing immersion in the antics of a pair wading hopelessly out of their depth.

Nanjiani and Rae play Jibran and Leilani, a 'serious' documentary filmmaker and ad agency creative who spend the credits falling for each other and the period immediately following them splitting up. It's an overly hasty introduction but, as we quickly discover, this twosome are better when they're bickering, so that's largely what we get. When they accidentally hit a cyclist with their car post break-up, and a mysterious bad guy (the great Paul Sparks) forces his way into their vehicle to comprehensively flatten him, Jibran and Leilani freak out at the improbableness of their story and go on the run. Thinking they need to solve the crime to clear their names in the eyes of a racist police force, they start to follow the clues, uncovering a blackmail plot involving a secret society.

Originally slated for a cinema release ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, The Lovebirds is an endearing, briskly paced, sometimes rushed romp with some great comic set-pieces (an awkward scene at a masked ball is absolutely priceless). The film's musings on love can be banal but the central pair have charisma and comic aptitude to burn, delivering bigger laughs than are there on paper and, while they don't always convince romantically, they spark off each other entertainingly, as they squabble and get side-tracked by personal problems and trivial speculation during life or death scenarios.

Like so many similar films, the more far-fetched things get the more The Lovebirds loses you, yet, for all its narrative ridiculousness, there is something charmingly realistic about the couple's shambolic efforts to fend off attackers and their truly terrible decision-making. Ultimately, it's embarrassingly easy to project yourself into their predicament.

Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 22 May.

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