Two projects originally slated for theaters probably get better play with their recent Covid induced straight-to-streaming release rather than fighting it out with giant projects in big movie houses.
Not to say I didn’t enjoy The Lovebirds on Netflix and Trip to Greece (available with charges in various services like Amazon and On Demand services). But neither movie comes with blockbuster credentials or potential even though the first stars a character in a planned Marvel Comic film, while a seven-time major award winner heads the other. Kumail Nanjiani, set to play Kingo in Marvel’s upcoming The Eternals, puts his background as comedian to use in The Lovebirds, a featherweight and lighthearted affair about murder interrupting a couple’s plans to break up. Never more than a piffle, the movie’s sparkle comes from Nanjiani and co-star Issa Rae as a bickering but likeable couple. Nanjiani, a critics’ favorite from The Big Sick, oozes charisma, but no more so than Rae, whose big smile and funny insights on the YouTube series Awkward Black Girl led her to HBO’s Insecure plus movie projects like Little. Plot weakens rather than thickens in The Lovebirds, but the bickering banter provides reasonable laughs. That squabbling-duo motif works again for Trip to Greece, fourth in a series with buddies Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon taking road trips. With seven British Academy Award wins and a couple of Oscar nominations, Coogan flaunts his talent, playing a hyper version of himself throughout all four trip movies. Brydon, meanwhile, holds his own as comedian, impressionist, and singer, feeling free to needle his longtime friend as they drive through glamorous European settings and eat phenomenal foods. The movies almost come off as documentaries because the characters maintain their real names and follow paths to existing locations, but they operate under direction from Michael Winterbottom, who guides camera angles and controls dialogue that sometimes starts as improvisation but usually follows a preordained path. The approach started in Twenty-ten and continued erratically, often interrupted by Coogan’s other film forays like his critically lauded performance in Stan and Ollie. The team claim Greece represents their last trip, though nothing about it feels final. Their talent and intellectual repartee remain strong—though in that dry, British manner that often misses U.S. movie audience sensibilities. Both Trip to Greece and The Lovebirds provide escapism, good choices in Covid times. For KUNR, I’m Robin Holabird.