Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Paul Sparks, Anna Camp, Kyle Bornheimer, Mahdi Cocci, Kelly Murtagh, Moses Storm, Catherine Cohen
Written by: Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, based on a story by Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, Martin Gero
Directed by: Michael Showalter
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language throughout and some violence
Running Time: 86
Date: 05/22/2020

The Lovebirds (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Love You to Death

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Debuting Friday on Netflix, The Lovebirds is one of those attempts to combine a romantic comedy with a chase-type thriller, like Date Night or Game Night, but this one actually works, not only because of the fresh chemistry between its stars, but because the entire package is so brisk and taut.

As it begins, Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae, from The Hate U Give and TV's Insecure) have a spectacular first date together, and it looks like true love. Four years later, they live together and argue regularly.

On their way to a dinner party, they accidentally hit a bicyclist with their car. They get out and check on him; he's bleeding, but seems terrified. He jumps on his bike and rides away. A creepy man claiming to be a cop (Paul Sparks) commandeers the car and gives chase.

When they catch him, the man runs over the bicyclist... several times. He flees, and Jibran and Leilani are left looking like murderers. In a dark twist, they know they can't go to the police because of the colors of their skin.

But they have the bicyclist's phone, so they head off into the night to try to solve the mystery themselves, and perhaps save their damaged relationship as well.

The new movie walks a fine line between two other Nanjiani movies, between the high quality of the Oscar-nominated The Big Sick and last year's action-comedy dud Stuber.

Directed by Michael Showalter, who also helmed The Big Sick (available on Amazon Prime), The Lovebirds effectively balances lovable, bickering characters and a ridiculous crime story without wearing out its welcome.

It clocks in at a compact 86 minutes, and it's hilarious all the way through the third act.

The real draw, of course, is Nanjiani and Rae, who feel just right together, and who hit the same pitch throughout without ever out-doing each other.

They find a nice combination of relatable emotions and broad comedy, and even the most worn-out of gags, such as repeated one involving "on the count of three," feel playfully silly.

The Lovebirds is a perfect stay-at-home movie; couples that can't have a date night out will be singing its praises.

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