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Film Review: ‘I Want You Back’ is a Refreshingly Old-Fashioned Romantic Comedy

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The romantic comedy is a genre that goes through ebbs and flows. Currently, there seems to be a real dearth of them, and especially, high quality ones. A rom com doesn’t seem especially hard to pull off, but far too many films wind up either overly concerned with a high concept or a determination to play to the lowest common denominator. I Want You Back, however, manages to be one of the good ones, never insulting your intelligence but with a fun hook to rope you in. By being filled with charm and leaning in to the traditional elements of the genre, Amazon has themselves a real winner, especially for couples.

I Want You Back is a lovely throwback to the rom coms we used to get so much more often than we do now. Plus, by casting Charlie Day and Jenny Slate opposite each other, they’re not scrimping on the comedy aspect of it all. They have great chemistry, so while the sparks eventually fly, we’re laughing at and with them as much as anything else. That helps to set this one apart from the pack, as well as just a respect for what makes a good rom com.

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When we meet Peter (Day) and Emma (Slate), they’re in the process of being dumped. Anne (Gina Rodriguez) and Noah (Scott Eastwood) are ready to move on from them, but these devastated thirty-somethings are not. When a chance encounter brings them into contact with each other, initially it’s just as a drunken friend and/or shoulder to cry on. However, their bonding has an unusual outlet when something occurs to them.

One day, Peter and Emma form a plan to sabotage their exes’ new relationships and win them back for good. So, they begin to ingratiate themselves into the lives of those new beaus. Peter becomes buddies with Noah, while Emma flirts with Anne’s new boyfriend. Initially, it seems like it’s going great, but of course, complications ensue. Plus, is something beginning to brew between Peter and Emma. No points for guessing that part…

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Charlie Day and Jenny Slate are a winning rom com couple here. Day gets a rare leading man role and runs with it, showcasing both heart and humor. Slate does the same, furthering her A-list credentials. Together, they’re a romantic comedy force to be reckoned with, with some first rate chemistry, especially when they get to just riff. Scott Eastwood and Gina Rodriguez are fine and have some unexpected layers, though you’re never unaware how this grouping should resolve itself. The rest of the supporting cast includes Clark Backo, Luke David Blumm, Pete Davidson, Manny Jacinto, and Jamie Gertz, but it’s Day and Slate who really leave the most impact.

Director Jason Orley is quickly becoming a comedic filmmaker to watch out for. Here, along with writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, he focuses on making you laugh, but never letting you forget the real emotions at play. By doing that, I Want You Back feels more relatable than you might expect. They’re not reinventing the wheel here, and they know it, but they lean in to making a rom com that works on multiple levels.

I Want You Back will make you chuckle and make you smile. What else do you want out of a romantic comedy? The fact that it’s now available on Amazon Prime Video will only get it in front of more eyeballs, which is a very good thing indeed. If you like rom coms, this is one not to miss, especially if you like Day and/or Slate. You’ll be incredibly glad that you did…

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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