Who is ready for a brand-new romantic comedy with a crew of famous actors? Well…they seem to be a dime per dozen but there will always be a market for them. You can head over to any streaming service and find endless rom coms to throw on and hopefully have some laughs. But what if you take some of the narrative beats of Strangers on a Train and inject them into a rom com? That sounds quite enticing! But let’s get something straight…no murders in this one. But what if two people unexpectedly get dumped as their ex’s move on to someone else and these two people who are heartbroken decide to combine forces to get them back. Each one will try to break up the other’s ex with their present romances. Plenty of opportunities to shine…or to mess it up.
What is director Jason Orley able to do with this intriguing set-up? Orley’s previous works have simple but effective premises that he can bring all the charm out of (The Intern and Big Time Adolescence are both wins for the filmmaker). For the most part, Orley is about to squeeze plenty of charm out of his actors (which is an essential piece to the equation). The two leads Charlie Day and Jenny Slate are our two heartbroken lovebirds, and both have the possibility of going TOO over-the-top. Luckily, Orley can keep them reined in allowing both actors to offer up charming and endearing performances. I Want You Back is a film that sits comfortably in comedy for the first two acts of the film before veering into a more serious tone for the final act. The pacing begins to lag towards the end as this film hits almost two hours, but it is engaging for most of the film.
Does this mix of narrative beats offer up an interesting story? The general set up of the film is open for plenty of potential even if it does not put our protagonists in the best light. They are both willing participants in this endeavor to start but their arch of shaking commitment makes the film more interesting. With the central story, the narrative is split into two major parts. You have Day’s Peter who must befriend Scott Eastwood’s Noah to sabotage his new relationship with Clark Backo (who is honestly given the short end of the stick in the film). Overall, Day and Eastwood are fun together, but their shenanigans feel a bit low brow even with a great cameo from a former collaborator of Orley’s. Slate’s Emma gets to have a lot of fun wedging herself between Gina Rodriguez’s Anne (who is plenty entertaining) and Manny Jacinto’s Logan who is a fun addition to the film. There are some strange subplots in this part, but the Little Shop of Horrors performance is a lot of fun and where the film takes Slate, Rodriguez, and Jacinto is quite interesting. The story takes a more serious tone towards the end (losing some of the magic) but the combination of Day and Slate is endearing enough to have fun.
Is I Want You Back too familiar? The film leans into those familiar tropes but also has fun with the elements it borrows from the likes of Strangers on a Train. The cast is plenty of fun and really makes the experience worthwhile. This is a fun time for the Valentine’s Day holiday.