(director:Michael Showalter; screenwriters: Brendan Gall/Aaron Abrams/story by Martin Gero,Gall & Abrams; cinematographer: Brian Burgoyne; editors: Robert Nassau/Vince Filippone; music: Michael Andrews; cast:  Issa Rae (Leilani),  Kumail Nanjiani (Jibran),  Paul Sparks (Mustache), Anna Camp (Edie, Senator’s wife), Catherine Cohen (Mrs. Hipster), Kyle Bornheimer (Brett), Nicholas X. Parsons (Bicycle (Tom) ), Andrene Ward-Hammond(Detective Martin), Moses Storm (Steve), Mahdi Cocci (Keith), Kelly Murtagh (Evonne); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tom Lassally, Oly Obst, Martin Gero, Todd Schulman, Jordana Mollick; Netflix; 2020)

An innocuous and lightweight but likable and funny screwball crime comedy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An innocuous and lightweight but likable and funny screwball crime comedy directed by Michael Showalter (“The Big Sick”/”Hello, My Name is Doris”) from a script with some witty moments in the dialogue by writers Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall. It’s also relevant for today’s BLM movement that is calling out the police for unfair treatment of black folks.

The African-American Leilani (Issa Rae) and the Pakistani-American Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) are a young black professional couple living together in New Orleans, who are the lovebirds. He’s making a documentary film about corruption in the educational system and she’s an advertising executive in an undemanding job, and is heavily into social media. They have been going together for four years but each is not too impressed with their partner’s work efforts.

While driving together to a friend’s dinner party they argue and realize their affair is about to end. Jibran takes his eyes off the road while driving to look at Leilani, and the car crashes into a man on a bicycle (Nicholas X. Parsons). He is bleeding but recovers and scoots out of there fast when a creepy man on foot, with a mustache (Paul Sparks), approaches the couple and identifies himself as a cop and commandeers their car to go after the fleeing man on the bike.  In the pursuit, the supposed cop, driving the car, hits the bicycle rider once and then to make sure he’s dead runs over him while he’s on the ground. The cop then runs away, leaving the couple in the car to shoulder the blame. Two passers by notice and call the police. The couple flee, figuring they would have trouble explaining things to the real police (their black experience tells them to not trust the white cops) and that they might have a better chance of solving the murder on their own. They also recover the bike rider’s cell phone, which is a big help finding out what he’s been up to.

The couple checkout several nearby locations; encounter some weird folks, such as a mysterious woman (Anna Camp), the wife of a senator, who believes the couple are blackmailers;  and they continue to search and find clues to help them piece together the reason for the murder. They even locate an occult secret society (think Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”), whose members  wear masks. While in the middle of this ticklish situation, they still  have time for some heated arguments over things like the meaning of “fuckboy.”

It tries to blend together a whacky crime caper with a stand-up comedy routine about a squabbling couple, but the murder story is too weak to be credible.

What saves the film from its big plot holes is the lovable zany couple portrayed by Rae and Nanjiani, who have a great chemistry together and could probably do even better with a less silly script.

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani in “The

REVIEWED ON 6/21/2020  GRADE: B-