Imagine a world where the romantic comedy genre is still commercially viable on the silver screen, and not immediately put out to pasture on streaming platforms. In that alternate timeline, director Jason Orley’s I Want You Back, an earnest and hilarious romantic comedy, would be a certified box office smash and launch its stars (Charlie Day & Jenny Slate) into big ticket draws.
I Want You Back follows Peter (Day) and Emma (Slate), two thirty-somethings who are finally ready to settle down when their significant others break up with them. However, a serendipitous stairway meet cute presents Peter and Emma with an opportunity to team up and sabotage their exes’ new relationships through outrageously uproarious means.
This rom-com take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train takes full advantage of its 111 minute runtime to mine every bit of its premise for total comedic effect. A large portion of I Want You Back‘s success though is from its remarkably cohesive cast. Day and Slate have the kind of instantaneous on-screen chemistry that is sorely lacking from other recent films in the genre.
Additionally, Orley finds a way to uniquely utilize Scott Eastwood’s sincere and machismo personality as Emma’s gymrat ex, Noah. Even Manny Jacinto is given an opportunity in this separate himself from his dimwitted character in The Good Place, as he plays the self-serious middle school drama teacher, Logan.
While the entire cast of I Want You Back radiates excitable energy, the cinematography often feels dull. The streamlined lighting and typical shot compositions lack the dimension needed to truly make the film’s world come to life.
Still, I Want You Back is a light-hearted flashback to a time when films didn’t have to be completely subversive or have some sort of grand message. It’s exactly the kind of film that is needed to reignite the romantic comedy genre. Hopefully, Orley’s fantastic sophomore feature won’t end up drowning in the sea of mediocre content that populates contemporary streaming services.
The Silver Lining
While the main cast of I Want You Back is marvelous, All I could think about as the credits rolled is Manny Magnus, the young actor who played the role of Seymour in Logan’s middle school adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors. Magnus is only on screen for roughly 3 minutes, but his pitch-perfect rendition of “Suddenly Seymore” gave me goosebumps. Hopefully, this film will work as Magnus’ calling card for Broadway, as the young man seems destined for the stage.
I Want You Back is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.