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2011 Heartland Film FestivalRating: 3.5 of 5 yaps

Love Birds

As a cynic, there are a million things not to like about “Love Birds.” It is the most formulaic romantic comedy where it feels more like a game of Mad Libs than an actual story. The CONSTRUCTION WORKER who doesn’t believe in himself gets dumped and meets a beautiful BIRD EXPERT after he randomly ADOPTS A DUCK and learns how to love again. Add in a few ethnic best friends and a subplot or two, and you have an instant movie.

Everything happens at the right calculated moment. They fight at the end of the second act, and the kid comes around to the lovable hero right when everything fits. Even the duck is a reminded metaphor for what’s going on.

And yet … this movie works. It works as much as it wants to. It’s a sweet, unambitious movie that will make you smile for 100 minutes. Almost all of that is due to the two lead actors. Rhys Darby is best known for the scene-stealing inept manager from “Flight of the Conchords.” After he shaves his face and wears cooler clothes, he looks 10 years younger and a proper romantic lead.

His counterpart is the delightful Sally Hawkins (“Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Never Let Me Go”). Even though all of their scenes are too familiar, they bring great emotional strengths to the characters. The way they handle loneliness and regret are the most powerful moments of the movie.

Most of the humor is silliness with the duck. People react with surprise to see a duck at a store/bar/cricket game. A dog has more personality to work with than a duck, but its silly presence works because Darby completely sells it. He shows great affection as he cares for the duck and brings it with him in a little bag.

This is a safe recommendation for Heartland. Whenever it comes out on DVD, it may not be the same because their soundtrack choices are really expensive songs — a lot of Queen and Elton John. When a film is described as cute, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.

 

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