A paint-by-numbers avian rom-com, Love Birds is an amiable if clichéd genre effort which never quite takes flight. It’s got a cute enough concept: schlubby boy meets duck, duck needs vet, vet falls for boy – and voila! Romance ensues. When Harry Met Drake this ain’t, however. Given that our schlub is played by Flight Of The Conchords‘ Rhys Darby, and the vet by Sally Hawkins, breakout star of Happy Go Lucky (Leigh, 2008), the film should have received a healthy theatrical run, but this bird has had its wings clipped during the flight to UK shores, finding an unflattering perch on the straight-to-DVD market. Does it deserve better? Well, let’s just say that when researching the film’s tech specs last week I was unsurprised to learn the name of its production company – General Film Corporation. Indeed, this is the most conventional, inoffensive and predictable of rom-coms, but what Love Birds lacks in originality it certainly makes up for in charm…
Doug (Darby) is a workaday bloke oblivious to the frustrations of his long term girlfriend Susan (Faye Smythe), who believes the fanatical Queen fan has become stuck in a rut. Soon after her departure Doug’s bland bachelor lifestyle is livened up by Pierre, an injured duck who needs serious medical attention. That attention comes in the form of perky veterinarian Holly (Hawkins), a single mother whose son (Beck Taylor) may prove troublesome for her budding romance with Doug. It won’t take a degree in rocket science to work out where this story is headed, and by the time Holly has revealed her life-long dream to see the moon, we can pretty much mind-map the film’s final frames. The parallels drawn between Doug and Pierre’s lives are also predictably heavy-handed (abandonment, injury, yearning for love), so much so that I thought Murphy was going to pull a they’re-the-same-person twist, or morph his film into an all-out hybrid horror, à la Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). Instead he provides us with a mercilessly funny scene of ducks in hats, which is the sort of sight gag I thought I’d become immune to, but hey, there you have it.
So, how else to pad out this 600-word review? Honestly, if you’ve ever seen a half-decent rom-com in your life, this is one of those, so approach accordingly. The real problems lie in Nick Ward’s overreaching screenplay, in which every character is a stock cliché, with Doug’s work pals comprising fat, thick and ethic token respectively. Taylor is also a particular nuisance, with the over-used kid not wanting a new father plot point feeling more like a dramatic construction than anything genuinely rooted in the real world – not that reality is anything the rom-com genre should be striving for. With feathered pratfalls and stuttering romance Love Birds manages to charm its way through a contrived third act, and remains watchable for the chemistry of its two leads. Darby plays the ever lovable Kiwi for all he’s worth, and Hawkins practically oozes likability as Holly, proving that she deserved to become a much bigger star in the wake of Happy Go Lucky.
The soaring Queen soundtrack may signpost every emotional beat (the use of Somebody To Love feels especially cloying), but it does mean that the film has a boundless energy, which comes with the territory of one of rock’s brightest, most romantic outfits. Overall there’s little to recommend Love Birds outside of a rental, but if you’re looking for a sweet, offbeat little title to occupy a night in, you could honestly do a lot worse. You probably won’t remember it in the morning, but while it lasts this is an entertaining diversion…
The DVD presentation is fair, with the image and sound both meeting the standard for this kind of product. Extras include a trio of back-slapping interviews with Murphy, Darby and Hawkins, but more charming is a featurette where Darby and Hawkins first meet the birds of Love Birds. A standard package for a standard film.
Director: Paul Murphy
Stars: Rhys Darby, Faye Smythe, Alvin Maharaj
Runtime: 103 min