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"Songbird" Review

 It has only been 13-1/2 months since the world committed mass hysteria figurative suicide over Hot Fad Plague 2020-21 and we've already got two completely mediocre movies cranked out to capitalize on the situation. Back in January brought the lackluster HBO Max mess Locked Down which starred Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor as a couple stuck in quarantine as their relationship unravels, but find shared purpose in pulling a jewelry heist. 

But before that by a month on VOD was Songbird starring KJ Apa (Archie on Riverdale) which is now on Hulu and my girlfriend bullied me into watching. Not saying I'm downloading Tindr after this, but...

 Set in a near-future Los Angeles which has been laid waste to by Covid-23, Apa stars as Nico, a bike messenger whose natural immunity to the far-more-deadly mutation allows him to traverse the deserted streets delivering packages to people who have UV sterilizing airlocks that don't seem very practical if you need a larger box brought in. Unlike the current coronavirus which as a 99.8% survival rate (unless you're very old, obese, or sick), this is a nastier bug which has killed millions and forced people into Q-Zones where they either prove immune or die. 

Nico works for Lester (Craig Robinson) and some of the work involves contraband immunity bracelets being dealt by a wealthy couple, William (Bradley Whitford) and Piper (Demi Moore), which allows passage outside. (While the bands are supposed to indicate who's immune, what good do they do for those who are vulnerable beyond letting them outside? Don't know.) Nico has a sweetheart named Sara (Sofia Carson) whom he does Facetime calls with, but it's unclear whether they've actually ever met face to face.

Also in a virtual relationship is Michael (Paul Walter Hauser), who flies surveillance drones for Lester, and is a fan of a singer, May (Alexandra Daddario), who does cover requests on a YouTube substitute and also canoodles with William. (Is she the titular songbird though she is only shown singing once, poorly, and doesn't connect to Nico and Sara at all? Don't know.) How convenient is it that everyone in this small cast is interconnected and seems to represent the entire surviving population of LA?

The stakes rise when Sara's grandmother becomes ill (considering they never go out, how? Don't know, same as with our current virus. meaning the Department of Sanitation, the government outfit charged with collecting the dead and infected for transport to the Q-Zone, will be coming for them soon unless Nico can somehow procure a bracelet to rescue her. Naturally, the corrupt DoS official, Harland (Peter Stormare), is connected to everyone else, which would seem to ease the process except he's evil on top of corrupt because of course he is because movie. 

Even before looking up how it was filmed when the pandemic was raging - it was the first Hollywood production to happen after the world shut down and operated under extreme precautions - you can tell something is odd because it relies mostly on people talking over screens and there is never more than two or three people in a scene. LA is a barren as Will Smith's Manhattan in I Am Legend except for the glimpses of the Q-Zones populated by CGI people. 

You never really get to the point of caring for the characters because they are just outlines, though I must say there's slightly more meat on their bones than the stick figures in Stowaway. The production feels cheap and slapdash - the prominently touted producer Michael Bay reportedly shot the action sequences - and it's not a surprise that only a few months transpired between coming up with the idea and shooting as it very much feels like a first draft. 

Just as Hollyweird cranked out one terrible anti-war movie after another in the Aughts, we are 0-for-2 in pandemic cash-ins. Part of the problem is while rushing these movies out means zero time for getting scripts prepared beyond spell-checking, the greater dramatic challenge is that despite a very successful effort by the biased and corrupt media to terrify scientifically ignorant Karens into believing Wuhan virus is Captain Trips (the germ warfare bug that escaped in The Stand, killing 99.4% of the world's population) and thus sacrifice their entire way of life, it's actually not a threat as mentioned above. 

So trying to make a horror/sci-fi flick about a deadly bug patterned after one that is almost completely a media hype creation requires too much suspension of disbelief. Unless you're a Karen who has bought into the #Scamdemic, then Songbird will join Bird Box in your rotation of fear-reinforcing entertainment.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.


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