Valentine's Day weekend has seen its fair share of romantic comedies, and this year there are two...one of them represents everything that is wrong with the genre (see "Marry Me," or then again, don't) and the other shows how enjoyable the genre can be when things are done right.
"I Want You Back" is incredibly FUNNY, and that above all else makes it worth watching. It's a showcase for its two stars, Jenny Slate and Charlie Day, who are two of the very best, underrated comedic actors of their generation. Romantic comedies are often only as good as its central characters, and these two deliver in ways that we haven't quite seen since the days of "When Harry Met Sally," where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal elevated an already hilarious script (by the late, great Nora Ephron) with their magnetic personalities, creating a classic in the process.
Slate and Day are that good, and even if "I Want You Back" stumbles in its final stretch, it's still the best rom-com in many, many years.
Peter (Day) is unceremoniously dumped by his long-time girlfriend, Anne (Gina Rodriguez) on the very same day that Emma (Slate) is broken-up with by her dashing boyfriend, Noah (Scott Eastwood). Completely crushed and blindsided to boot, they both retreat from their offices into a stairwell to cry and have a smoke. That's where they run into one another for the first time, and learn that they are experiencing the same pain.
Misery loves company, so the two bond naturally from the shared experience of having their lives pulled from under them with little to no warning. Things are made worse when both of their ex's enter into new relationships, Noah with an independent pie shop owner, Ginny (Clark Backo) and Anne with a high school drama teacher, Logan (Manny Jacinto). Peter and Emma hatch a diabolical plan to win their ex's back for each other: Peter would try to befriend Noah, so he could persuade him to dump his new girlfriend and return to Emma, while Emma would seduce Logan in order to force Anne into realizing how good she had it with Peter.
What could go wrong...right?
I could go on and on about the screen presence of Jenny Slate, who broke out with the equally hilarious and brilliant 2014 rom-com, "Obvious Child." She is so funny, so vulnerable, and so able to portray so much on her face without saying a word. When she does speak, her delivery makes every line biting and laugh-out-loud funny. Charlie Day has such a great, relatable vibe to him and is so naturally funny, in a way where girls want to know him and guys want to hang out with him. Together, Peter and Emma have electric chemistry, and you don't want them to get together so much as you don't want either of them to end up hurt.
The movie does slow down as it nears its final act, when the first false note of the film occurs in an effort to get all of the main characters into the same spot for the inevitable conclusion. During this stretch, the laughs slow down too. But the final half-hour is still not that bad to where it ruins anything that came before.
Comedies like "I Want You Back" are few and far between, and sadly of the two rom-coms opening this weekend, this one can only be found streaming and not in theaters (at least not here in the Detroit market). That's too bad, because this sort of funny, enjoyable, infectious comedy is exactly what I think movie theaters need as a counter-balance to superheroes and horror films...it's a shame that a couple looking for a good night out over Valentine's Day weekend will have to settle for "Marry Me," when their best option for a new rom-com is awaiting them back at home on streaming.
Genre: Romance, Comedy.
Run Time: 1 hour 51 minutes.
Starring: Jenny Slate, Charlie Day, Scott Eastwood, Gina Rodriguez, Manny Jacinto, Clark Backo.
Directed by Jason Orley ("Big Time Adolescence").
"I Want You Back" is streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, February 11th, 2022.
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