On a typical Friday night, my wife and I normally wait until our son falls asleep and creep back downstairs to our TV in the living room. After hours of enduring whatever our son wanted to watch, we find ourselves finally able to reclaim the remote. Of course we start off rotating through the typical selection of streaming services, going back and forth vetoing each others’ choices. Normally we can settle on a romantic comedy, but have found ourselves circling back on the same old favorites and wishing that modern filmmakers would return to this genre that could really use some fresh blood. There have been a couple over the past few years that have made a mark, I’m looking at you Palm Springs, but we still yearn for more. With that said, we both jumped at the chance to review Prime Video’s I Want You Back – especially because of the two leads, Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny fame and Jenny Slate of Parks and Rec. Over the course of its 1 hour 56 minute runtime, it did not disappoint. So, let’s break it down.
When it comes to rom-coms, the title will live and die by the leads. With I Want You Back, Day and Slate do most of the heavy lifting with their impeccable comedic talents and undeniable chemistry. The plot is straightforward enough, with both respective actors being dumped by their significant others due to their complacency and lack of purpose. In this case, the 30-something Slate is dropped by her personal trainer boyfriend, played by the surprisingly charming Scott Eastwood, as she still has roommates and is wasting time in a career she isn’t passionate about. On the other side, the determined Gina Rodriguez ends a 6-year-long relationship with Day at her nephew’s birthday party, much to his anguish and our viewing enjoyment. Slate and Day begin to bond over their mutual pain after a chance meeting at the office building they both work at. After realizing both their exes have started seeing other people, they conspire together to help get their partners back. Hilarity ensues as Slate tries to seduce Gina Rodriguez’s new boyfriend, a middle-school theater director played by Manny Jacinto, who viewers will remember as Jason on The Good Place. As for Day, rather than try and seduce Eastwood’s new girlfriend (he’s not feeling too confident in his ability to turn her eye from the chiseled Eastwood), he instead becomes his friend, trying to dissuade him from advancing his relationship. The setup is there, and with some surprising cameos along the way, the film finds its footing with well timed jokes, a surprisingly tender rendition of Suddenly Seymour, and a typical heartfelt closing that will leave you happy you gave this film a chance.
The delicate balance between romance and comedy in a typical rom-com is what keeps the film fresh and the audience engaged. Too heavy on either end and you find yourself alienating your primary viewers. So, where does I Want You Back fall on this particular scale? Dead center, right where it should be. It brought the laughs from the opening scene to the closing credits, but also managed to retain its romantic integrity throughout. Typically, you see a partnership between two leads that swing on both ends of the spectrum, one on comedy and the other on drama, but Day and Slate played things differently. Yes, they were both on point with comedic timing, but it was actually their vulnerability, especially from Slate, that led us to enjoy the film that much more. Never fear, Day shines as leading man material, giving off the same charm of a younger Tom Hanks. The perfect recipe for a delectable rom-com always starts with leads that seem like they would make an endearing couple, so perhaps this Day/Slate combo may find themselves in future ventures together. With Valentine’s Day this Monday the 14th, and the film premiering on Prime Video Friday the 11th, our recommendation is to order pizza, pour out a glass of wine, and laugh your ass off to I Want You Back. Cheers to the romantic comedy resurgence!