I Want You Back

Charlie Day and Jenny Slate both levitate in the right kind of romcom.

Charlie Day wasted his talents in “Horrible Bosses 2,” “Vacation,” and “Fist Fight,” and tried to tackle on villainous roles in “Pacific Rim: Uprising” and “Hotel Artemis.” But his new romcom, “I Want You Back,” is a real contrast to those films, because of how well he eases into his character’s tragedy and adds a sweet, funny touch along the way. And it’s about damn time, too, because I really love this comedy actor, and I know he has the potential to be flexible.

“I Want You Back” also tackles on broken relationships, like “Marry Me,” but unlike that film, it cares less about fame and social media and more about the chemistry between the two individuals. Day and Jenny Slate play Peter and Emma, who both have been dumped by their spouses, and decide to go “Cruel Intentions” meets “Strangers on a Train” by ruining their new relationships.

Peter was dumped by Anne (Gina Rodriguez), who wants to focus on her art and falls for the school play director Logan (Manny Jacinto), while Emma was dumped by the gym trainer Noah (Scott Eastwood) for the attractive pie shop girl Ginny (Clark Backo).

A chain of reactions occur as their plan goes into effect. Peter has some fun with Noah, while Emma befriends a kid named Trevor (Luke David Blumm from “The King of Staten Island”), whose father is having a gay affair. Don’t worry, Emma wants her connection with Trevor to be platonic. Peter and Emma are still focused on ruining their ex’s new relationships, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I won’t spoil the rest for you, because I want you to see for yourselves.

“I Want You Back” has basically the same time length as “Marry Me,” running less than 2 hours, but this one is funnier and more affectionate than the other romcom. In fact, it has patience and consistency, and honest humor. I mean truthful humor, ones we’ve seen done better or worse before, but handled so well through the perspectives of Day, Slate, director Jason Orley (“Big Time Adolescence”), and writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (both behind “Love, Simon” and “This Is Us”). Some of them are assisted by guest star Pete Davidson as a Molly dealer.

Unlike “Marry Me,” it doesn’t settle for the most obvious approaches, and allows these two individuals to deal with their circumstances. Yes, you get the romantic ending, but before we get to that part, there are challenges and choices that affect them. Its turning point also sets us into motion.

I’ve already mentioned how well Day is able to morph his comedy into sweetness, instead of just doing his schtick, but the supporting actors are also fine. Slate delivers a delightful personality on the level of such artisan features as “Obvious Child” and “Gifted.” Eastwood adds a nice touch to his character, especially the ways he has some fun with Day (Spoiler Alert: this is the second movie when Eastwood punches him after “Pacific Rim”). I like the way the movie uses Blumm as the kid, who seems like a trouble maker, especially when he’s in detention, but actually has a good side to him. And Rodriguez uses her strong feminine attitude when we get to her break-ups and at the turning point.

Looking back at the three bad comedies I’ve mentioned, why couldn’t they be as sharp and wise as “I Want You Back?” This movie gives Day the kind of possibilities that those movies didn’t even want to have. They were mean, cynical, and dumb; this one is cute, funny, and smart.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Categories: comedy, Romance

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