I Want You Back Review

Charlie von Peterffy ‘24 / Entertainment Monthly Staff Writer

I Want You Back is a story about two people who recently got dumped unexpectedly. During their times of relationship grieving, they meet each other, become friends, and come up with a plan to get back with their exes. They each embark on ridiculous quests to get the other person’s ex to fall back in love with them, whether they have to become someone’s friend or seduce an ex’s new lover.

In short, this film is a generic rom-com that occasionally pleases because of the film’s realistic performances and sometimes funny gags. It has some great moments that surely touch the soul, but it spends two-thirds of its runtime scrambling for laughs and unpredictability in a plot that is as formulaic as a recipe.

The story has a well-mixed bag of both strengths and weaknesses. The premise itself is unique. The idea that two people in the slums of dump-hood coincidentally meet and team up to get their exes back is unusual and is fun to see on screen. There are also quite a few sequences that show how generous the characters can be outside of the main story, which adds a sentimental touch.

Despite the unique concept, the film squanders its potential with generic structuring and results; after a long adventure and a significant fallout, the unexpected couple gets back together in a goofy scene related to a joke no one remembers. That’s not even a spoiler. The pacing is also slow for the first 45 minutes, making the whole film drag on for a while before things pick up in the second act.

The cast is by far the most substantial factor of the movie. Each actor shines in their role excellently, bringing unique emotional ranges to their characters. Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) are perfect as the leads. Their chemistry with each other and others, whether awkward or seductive, is hilarious. Every scene that involves them is guaranteed a smile, even if their lines don’t provoke amusement. The other characters are strong as well. They each fit their roles perfectly and boost the drama of the leading duo effectively.

The writing is fine. It is not strong, but it is not lousy either. Some scenes work, and some do not, and the dialogue between characters is pretty average. The biggest problem with the writing is that many jokes don’t fly. It feels like amateurs just quickly added some one-liners into some of the scenes. Fortunately, there are also a few hysterical scenes, so there is still much to laugh at.

The visuals are solid. Cinematographically, this movie does not offer anything innovative or new, nor does it turn any set designs or lighting techniques on their heads. But the scenery reinforces the movie’s lighthearted tone and is a decent addition.

The worst part of the film is the very final scene. It tries to reconnect the two leads in a cheesy, lazy, rushed sequence of theatrical events. It tries to connect back to when one of the two mentions their feelings for their ex. While, depending on the execution, this scene could have been impactful and satisfying, here it feels like a last-minute rewrite to close out the story. As a result, the final verdict on their relationship feels forced, the scene feels obvious, and the whole film closes on a sour note. 

Overall, I Want You Back is a light, well-performed film that suffers from familiar plot structuring and unfunny jokes. Even with these flaws, it manages to entertain more than it should, making it a fitting movie to watch whenever in the rom-com mood.

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