Starring Charlie Day and Jenny Slate as Peter and Emma, two recently-dumped 30-somethings, 'I Want You Back' tries to be more than just another rom-com.
And, to its credit, it nearly gets it right. It's a film about the complexities of relationships, breakups and the belief in yourself to go it alone. Yes, it mostly follows the well-trodden path of romantic comedies before it. But it clearly aims for a different outcome. Ultimately though, the ending disappointingly reverts to predictability. What we're left with is very close to just another rom-com.
Peter and Emma are both simultaneously dumped by their respective partners, Anne (Gina Rodriguez) and Noah (Scott Eastwood). Both are devastated and still clearly enamoured by their exes. Emma even claims that Noah is her "aeroplane safety mask person", someone you love so much you would put their oxygen mask on first before your own (a hilariously bad and dangerous analogy as pointed out by Peter in one scene).
When they see on social media that their exes have happily moved on to new romances, Anne with Logan (Manny Jacinto) and Noah with Ginny (Clark Backo), they hatch a desperate plot to win them back.
Peter's mission is to become besties with Noah, a personal trainer, by becoming his client and convincing him Emma is the one that got away. The two hit it off, eventually culminating in a drunken trip to a nightclub. Subsequently, they end up at a house party that goes awry (where Pete Davidson appears in a hilarious cameo as a hot tub-jumping MDMA dealer).
If we've learned anything from 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' and 'Horrible Bosses' it's that Charlie Day playing intoxicated will never not be funny. Day certainly doesn't add any new strings to his acting bow here, but if you're into his squeaky and affable past characters (he's harshly compared to Alvin the Chipmunk in one scene) then you'll be pleased with his performance.
Even Eastwood gets some comedic opportunities throughout. He could potentially look to go down the path of "extremely attractive but also funny" actors like Chris Hemsworth and Channing Tatum.
Meanwhile, Emma's job is to get in the way of Peter's ex's blossoming relationship with Logan, a high school teacher in charge of the school's performance of 'Little Shop of Horrors'. In her attempt to seduce him, she ends up volunteering for the production and tries to convince the couple to take part in a threesome with her, of which Anne is clearly not too keen on.
Slate goes toe-to-toe with Day in her performance and is very naturally funny in her role. Her climactic scene sees her fill in to sing an impressive rendition of 'Suddenly, Seymour'. However, her story starts to get a bit 'Love Actually' after a while. Especially during the strange plotline where she befriends a young student to repair his relationship with his father.
As the film goes on, it gets harder to predict where its two main characters are going to end up. Things start to turn out differently from the way the audience might expect. What it becomes is more about having love for yourself rather than a dependency on a partner who may be unwittingly holding you back. A brave message for a movie of its ilk.
Overall, 'I Want You Back' is an enjoyable film when it's taken at face value. My problem was that it led me to believe there was a bit more to it. The ending seemed forced and a little rushed, even for a film that is about 20 minutes too long. Where there was a lot of promise going into the final third, ultimately the movie reverts to type.
But, while it gets bumpy in parts, it's mostly a smooth sailing rom-com. Just be careful of the finish, and please remember to apply your own oxygen mask before helping others.
'I Want You Back' premieres on Prime Video Friday, February 11.