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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Songbird’ on VOD, a Slapdash Thriller Hoping to Profit on COVID Paranoia

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From the It Was Bound to Happen sweepstakes comes Songbird, a COVID movie shot mid-pandemic during the summer of 2020 and cranked out for VOD release this holiday season. Michael Bay is a producer, but don’t expect any vintage Bayhem, because that type of art takes far, far longer than three months to squeeze out of the sausage machine. No, this is a quickie-cheapie exploiter with a halfway-decent cast that could have Something to Say About Our Current Predicament, or simply be the movie that rushed to post FIRST!!!!11!!!1!!!!!11! in the comments section.

SONGBIRD: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: America, 2024. COVID-23 has killed 8.4 million people this year alone; 110 million people worldwide have died in the pandemic. The virus keeps mutating. The country is a police state. The Sanitation Dept. rules Los Angeles, snatching up sick people and forcing them into quarantine camps. The few who are immune — dubbed “munies” (mewnies?) — wear a yellow bracelet, their pass to leave their homes, although there doesn’t seem to be many of them, possibly due to movie-budget restraints. The rest of the population is sequestered indoors. This sure looks like an alt-future where Trump won the election RIMSHOT!

One of the munies is Nico (K.J. Apa of Riverdale), a courier for Lester’s Gets, a shipping service run by Lester (Craig Robinson). Nico hustles down deserted streets on his bicycle and always delivers his packages late even though he goes home every night to his beloved motorcycle. I guess you gotta stay fit somehow. He and Sara (Sofia Carson) are totes in lovvvve even though they’ve never seen each other in person. She’s stuck in a small apartment with her grandmother. Occasionally, Nico stops by and drops a handwritten poem in the UV-sanitation package-delivery device that’s standard-issue in every home now. “It’s like I can feel you through this door,” he says longingly via video chat. Damn, will they ever get to touch each other. My heart, it aches for them so.

One day Sara’s grams doesn’t feel well, and soon enough, the Cough Cops from the Sanitation Dept. will arrive in hazmat suits with heavy weaponry and warnings to shoot people on sight if anyone interferes with them Just Doing Their Jobs, which is to deport people to the Q ZONE. They department is led by Emmett Harland, who’s played by Peter Stormare, which pretty much says everything you need to know about him. Elsewhere, Bradley Whitford and Demi Moore play a couple enriching themselves by counterfeiting munie bracelets; they have an immune-compromised daughter. Paul Walter Hauser is a disabled military vet who buzzes his drone around town, and connects with a popular internet singer-songwriter played by Alexandra Daddario. All these people will inevitably have something to do with each other, because the plot wouldn’t have it any other way.

SONGBIRD MOVIE 2020
Photo: Everett Collection

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Which was the worst Purge movie again?

Performance Worth Watching: I love Peter “I want pancakes house” Stormare. He’s a king scenery-eater in many relentlessly shitty movies; that reputation holds true here.

Memorable Dialogue: “Once a lonely refuse collector, now I’m the thin line between DEATH! And a miserable existence.” — Stormare!

Sex and Skin: Daddario gives Whitford a mask-and-faceshield lapdance in the movie’s most unintentionally hilarious scene.

Our Take: In the rush to get Songbird in the can and streaming, director Adam Mason, co-writing with Simon Boyes, didn’t bother to develop any characters, put together a coherent plot or come up with a single shred of commentary on the pandemic that’s ravaging the world as we speak. But hey, congratulations. You did it! You followed all the rules for film production during the pandemic, and made the first movie to use the awful reality of mass death and mentally crippling isolation as the basis for a series of stoopide contrivances and situations that adhere to no logic whatsoever, and offers the emptiest love story this side of Fifty Shades of Grey!

All this places the movie smack in the crass-exploitationist camp. Keep in mind, it’ll only profit on our current paranoia, political turmoil and immeasurable sadness if we spend $19.99 on this excremental bilge, which is approximately $19.98 more than it’s worth. So maybe we shouldn’t let it?

Our Call: SKIP IT. Songbird is not only DÜMB, it’s tasteless. Avoid it like COVID-19. Or COVID-23.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.
Where to stream Songbird

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