VOD film review: I Want You Back
James R | On 14, Feb 2022
The romantic comedy has gone through so many iterations and evolutions that the question of what happens after a happy-ever-after has been answered countless times. What happens after a break-up, on the other hand, is less explored by the genre. Enter I Want You Back, a rom-com that sees two dumpees decide to help each other to win back their respective exes.
So far, so Strangers on a Train, but I Want You Back resists the temptation to go too dark with its premise, which undermines its potential somewhat. The schemes that unfold – Peter (Charlie Day) becomes friends with Noah (Scott Eastwood) and tries to lure him into cheating, while Emma (Jenny Slate) tries seduce Logan (Manny Jacinto), the new romantic interest of Peter’s ex, Anne (Gina Rodriguez) – are relatively innocuous, which means that the stakes feel somewhat low throughout. That also means, however, that it’s harder to dislike our two main leads, despite the fact that they come with a side order of bitter, selfish delusion.
That’s no doubt the end goal of writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (Love, Simon), who throw in a subplot about Peter wanting to improve nursing home conditions for older people just to make sure we really think he’s a good egg. Elsewhere, the film happily trots through conventions – Drugs! House parties with dangerous swimming pool stunts! – without breaking a sweat.
But beneath that familiar surface lies a deceptively crazy energy, thanks to Charlie Day and Jenny Slate. The pair are more used to playing supporting comic relief than main star, with Slate’s own Obvious Child sadly not leading to more leading roles for her on screen. But given the chance to take centre stage, the duo are brilliantly entertaining to watch, each one able to improvise and push scenes into slightly unpredictable territory – Day’s frantic energy makes him a slightly disturbing figure, despite his loveable charisma, while Slate’s ability to be confident and vulnerable simultaneously makes for some hilariously awkward spectacles – a sequence involving Little Shop of Horrors, in particularly, is delightfully cringe-inducing.
The result is an entertaining demonstration of how much casting can make a movie. While I Want You Back isn’t adventurous enough to be a game-changer for the rom-com genre, its co-stars give it just enough of a distinctive edge to be worth making a date with.