“The Lovebirds,” starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae released on Netflix on May 22, after Paramount Pictures decided not to go ahead with the April 3 release due to the coronavirus pandemic. The romantic comedy directed by Michael Showalter was scheduled to have its world premiere at the South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, in March.
The film follows Rae and Nanjiani, who play a couple on the verge of breaking up. But they become part of a bizarre, dramatic, and unexpected murder mystery. “As their journey to clear their names takes them from one extreme — and hilarious —circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night,” a synopsis of the film says.
This is Nanjiani’s second collaboration with Showalter. The two have previously worked together on “The Big Sick.”
The film however opened to a mixed response. While most lauded Nanjiani’s performance, some critics argued that it fell way short of Nanjiani’s much-celebrated debut film. His earlier film “Stuber,” which released last year, with Dave Bautista, also received a mixed response from critics and audience alike. Some said the film was perfect for the streaming platform, while others believed that the film suffered because of the limited scope of Netflix. Others were on the opinion that the film did not make a mark.
“The truth is that ‘The Lovebirds’ makes all too much sense on Netflix,” IndieWire’s senior film critic, David Ehrlich, writes. Comparing both of Showalter’s films with Nanjiani – “The Big Sick” and “The Lovebirds” — Ehrlich says: “The only thing the two films really have in common is a winning performance from Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote himself the role of a lifetime the last time around, and elevates the sketch of a character he’s playing here with just the right amount of everyman anguish and silent alarm.”
According to film critic and entertainment writer Sarah Marrs, the film is notable only for its lead pair’s chemistry. “If it weren’t for Rae and Nanjiani — and Rae-and-Nanjiani— ‘The Lovebirds’ would be completely forgettable,” she writes in LaineyGossip. “But with them, it’s a pleasant enough distraction for slightly less than ninety minutes.”
Meanwhile Polygon entertainment reporter Karen Han says “The Lovebirds” is “the kind of movie that would benefit from a live, laughing audience. The chemistry between stars Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae keeps the romantic comedy charming.”
Others like CNN senior media and entertainment writer Brian Lowry feels that the film landed on Netflix on a “low-key note.” He continues: “’Lovebirds’” falls within the Hitchcockian tradition of ordinary people thrust into fantastic, life-threatening situations, with the added element that the central couple’s relationship is altered by the adventure — a common trope in movies.”
In the film’s review in The Hollywood Reporter, Beandrea July writes that the film is “that rare smart-dumb comedy that not only expects the audience to get why a black woman and a bearded Muslim American guy would assume the worst about the police, but also knows how to leverage that truth for laughs.”
Meanwhile, Vanity Fair film critic K. Austin Collins writes that Rae and Nanjiani “can’t charm their way out of a soggy action comedy.” He says, “Rae and Nanjiani make an effort, largely coasting on their ample personalities, and the movie gives them time to remind us of those personalities without really give them anything interesting to do.”
Nanjiani’s much-anticipated Marvel film “The Eternals” has also been a victim of the lockdown. The film’s release date has been moved from Nov. 6 to Feb. 12, 2021. Directed by Chloé Zhao with a screenplay by Matthew and Ryan Firpo, “The Eternals” also stars Richard Madden, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Angelina Jolie, Barry Keoghan, Gemma Chan and Kit Harington.