• Nate Adams

'I Want You Back' review: Charlie Day and Jenny Slate shine in charming romantic comedy


Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

 

Not breaking new ground, Jason Orley’s charming “I Want You Back” still has plenty of goods up its sleeve. Namely the one-two comedic punch of Charlie Day and Jenny Slate as jilted lovers trying to lure back their exes in hilarious and often revealing methods. Day, who's made a name for himself playing the hypercaffeinated and over stimulated (and sometimes annoying) sidekick, mellows out in a role that feels tailored made for his softer side and Slate, a promising actress on the rise for the last two years, bursts with infectious zingers. And, in another surprise casting choice, Scott Eastwood gets to show his likable personality instead of looking lost in an action caper that doesn’t know how to use him.


Writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger don’t try to upend conventions and obviously know the hand that’s being played. They set the stage early when Peter (Day) and Anne (Gina Rodriguez - underutilized but still having fun) plus Emma (Slate) and Noah (Eastwood) end their long-term relationships. As fate would have it (and the title suggests), Peter and Emma, after awkwardly meeting in the stairway of their work building, realize they’re in the same boat and over a bottle of wine concoct a scheme to break-up their former lovers and win them back. Emma plans to “volunteer” at Anne’s school to get closer to her boyfriend, a NYC theater geek named Logan (a hilarious Manny Jacinto), the drama director putting on a production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” whereas Peter hires Noah as his personal trainer to hopefully squeeze him for information on his girlfriend, Ginny (Clark Backo) who owns a local bakery. What could go wrong?


It won’t take a rocket scientist to figure where the endgame is headed, but what matters is how you get there and “I Want You Back” has fun within the realm of its universe. Day and Slate are a great pair with undeniable chemistry and wit shared among them. Their journey’s (which are too good to spoil) take several different and unexpected detours that have tremendous payoffs and meme worthy moments. Eastwood, the punching bag of D-level action pictures, has found a type that suits him playing the masculine lover boy caught in a weird love triangle; though it’s Day who shines the most, dialing down his usual antics for something more sincere and honest than what his fans are accustomed to.


Orley, who found success giving Pete Davidson credibility in “Big Time Adolescents,” keeps things light and breezy. There was a time when “I Want You Back” could have legged out to $100 million at the box office on solid word of mouth and since consumers will have many viewing options over the Valentine’s Day stretch, I hope it doesn’t get lost in the Amazon Prime shuffle. On the surface, it may look like another run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, but deep down it hits all the sweet spots and is elevated by an ensemble who gel every step of the way.


Grade: B+


I WANT YOU BACK debuts on Amazon Prime Video Friday, February 11th.