The Lovebirds ★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

A madcap misadventure that starts with a gruesome vehicular homicide, ends with a parody of the orgy sequence from “Eyes Wide Shut,” and spends the rest of its time scrambling around New Orleans with two of the world’s most dynamic comic talents this side of Hobbs and Shaw, “The Lovebirds” sounds like $16 million well spent — if not a total balm for the bleakness around us, then at least one of this lost summer’s few surefire delights. Throw in a director who’s hot off one of the best rom-coms of the 21st century (and reuniting with his inimitable leading man) and you should have the biggest slam dunk the world’s seen since “The Last Dance.”

Even when Paramount sold “The Lovebirds” to a streamer after the pandemic scuttled the movie’s SXSW premiere and put the kibosh on its planned theatrical release, there was something vaguely charitable about the last-minute decision; it felt less like a studio cutting its losses than it did a studio trying to preserve a piece of the summer movie season. But that was back in March — two months and 100 year ago — before the near future was a foregone conclusion, and anyone who got their hopes up only had themselves to blame.

The truth is that “The Lovebirds” makes all too much sense on Netflix. Michael Showalter’s follow-up to “The Big Sick” is as flat and algorithmic as his last rom-com was poignant and alive. 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.

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