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Love Birds

2011 | 98 min | PG | 2.39:1

Love Birds


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Theatrical release date

 22 June, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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Love Birds Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 21, 2012

With a title like “Love Birds” and a plot about a man discovering romance while nursing a bird back to health, eyes will understandably roll. However, not every duck-rehabilitation picture includes a sharp comedian like Rhys Darby, a wonderful dramatic actress like Sally Hawkins, and features extensive use of Queen on the soundtrack, including cuts from “Flash Gordon” and “Highlander.” While it ends up a muddled pile of subplots with an odd lack of common sense, “Love Birds” fights its way to the middle due to efforts from the cast and crew, who struggle heroically to bring character and sonic lift to a bland premise.

Doug “Flash” Gordon (Rhys Darby) has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Susan (Faye Smythe), left with a broken heart and an addiction to the music of Queen. Finding an injured duck on his roof, Doug takes the bird in, hoping to find a new home for his feathered pal. Faced with a lengthy healing period, Doug becomes a caretaker to the duck, now named Pierre, looking for guidance from zoologist Holly (Sally Hawkins) on how to care for such a creature. Growing close to Holly and her young son, Doug begins to feel again after his horrible break-up, with his co-workers cheering him on as love reenters his life. However, when Susan returns to make up for her mistake, Doug can’t help himself, threatening to sever his burgeoning relationship with a deeply vulnerable Holly.

With a premise that resembles something the Disney Studios would’ve attempted to make in the 1970s, “Love Birds” is a difficult movie to digest. It’s corny, scripted slackly by Nick Ward, who endeavors to move the story past its cutesy arrangement by filling the feature with characters, making time to meet Susan, Doug’s backstabbing pal Craig (Craig Watson), and the duck whisperer’s kooky fellow laborers, who encourage their mate to find his way back to love after his devastating break-up. The challenge for director Paul Murphy is to find a way to juggle all of these personalities, the duck business, and the developing relationship between Doug and Holly, leaving the material a little overstuffed for what should remain a simple chronicling of a man using his time with a bird to work on his co-dependency issues. The workload never seems under Murphy’s full control, rendering the film woozy with tangents, struggling to create a community of support and spoilers when attention is best left on the broken man and his efforts to win Holly’s favor.

It’s interesting to see where Murphy and Ward take the premise, yet the whole production feels unnecessarily heavy with plot, stealing time away from Doug and Holly and their surprisingly tender relationship. The duo share real fears and feelings with each other, allowing Hawkins a chance to pour a little emotional foundation with her deeply felt performance, counterbalancing Darby’s welcomingly cheery work. There’s some depth here worth the time invested, approaching the anxiety of a widowed single mother allowing herself to love again, while Doug’s journey of parenthood with the duck also unearths a few human moments to accompany the expected mischief, which unfortunately fixates on Pierre’s splattery bathroom habits. Still, Darby gets in a few snappy zingers while sharing chemistry with Hawkins, making the romantic angles of the picture more endearing than anyone could possibly expect of a movie that includes a scene where a man tries to protect his penis from the appetites of a duck while sharing a bath.

The Queen soundtrack is sublime, creating immediate euphoria when the film needs it the most. I only wish “Love Birds” had more to recommend beyond a few pronounced elements, as it isn’t long before tiresome formula sinks the picture, cooking up a harebrained break-up-to-make-up scenario to inspire a bland finale reminiscent of every romantic comedy in the marketplace. It’s a deflating move in a cute, but unimaginative movie. There’s a duck, a comedian, an award-winner, and Queen. “Love Birds” really shouldn’t go wrong, yet it can’t help but overcook simple ingredients.

Starring: Rhys Darby, Sally Hawkins, Bryan Brown
Director: Paul Murphy

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