Movie Review: I Want You Back by Josh Board

The fact that I liked the cast means nothing. I’ve seen so many bad movies with a cast of actors I love. My wife is bothered by just how much I love Jenny Slate (although when I told Slate how much I loved her movie “Obvious Child” a few years ago at the Critics Choice Awards, she was kind of rude to me). But I digress.

Charlie Day makes me laugh just at the sound of his voice. So when these two strangers have a meet/cute in the stairwell, as they’re crying over being dumped (can you blame Slate, her boyfriend was Scott friggin’ Eastwood!), you can’t help but root for these two to get together and fall in love. Well, they have other plans. They’re going to work together and plot to get their lovers back. And that’s going to be made difficult by the fact that both are in new relationships (and when you see that Eastwood has moved on to a pie shop owner played by Clark Backo…who can blame him?). Again, I digress. I just…really love pie. And Backo is adorable.

The scheme these two come up with is far-fetched and hardly believable, but when you’re watching Day hiding in a hamper as a naked Eastwood stands over it…how can you not laugh?

Day’s girlfriend Anne (Gina Rodriguez) is a teacher, and while her family loves that he’s so great with kids, she feels he stifles her. She had dreams of being an actress and in the arts, and instead, he thinks the most fun they ever had in their six years together was seeing Rod Stewart in Las Vegas. She’s also not thrilled with the fact that he’s stagnated in his career at a retirement home. When she gets into a relationship with the drama teacher at her school – (Manny Jancinto from The Good Place), we’re treated to some great writing. As a movie critic/film lover, I like characters that are pretentious about their plays (Waiting for Guffman comes to mind). When he’s telling a middle school kid how he’s doing the lights wrong, and says, “Think ‘Last Tango in Paris’...” anybody that knows that movie will laugh out loud. Also funny that kids that age would be doing a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” with lots of blood.

When Day and Eastwood end up with younger women at a mansion, and do drugs and attempt jumping off the roof into the pool…you’ll think you know the direction it’s going, but it’s so much funnier than you could imagine. Even Pete Davidson, who I can’t stand, is funny playing the ex-boyfriend who supplies the group with Molly while trying to get his girl back.

It’s nice that Day and Slate have good chemistry, and can also show their vulnerability. They also aren’t dimwits, which another screenwriter/director would have done with these types of people.

A special shout-out should go to actor Luke David Blumm, the 12-year-old that Slate counsels. He has a great, dry delivery and again, they don’t make him so obnoxious that we can’t like him. His interactions with Slate are charming.

One of the few things that didn’t work for me were the old soul songs played. As a huge music lover, I’ve been on a tear lately about filmmakers relying on needledrops (I’m looking at you, Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, and Edgar Wright). So, while hearing the Four Tops, David Ruffin, and Lonnie Russ might be nice on my home stereo, it didn’t fit here (just as I complained that Love, Simon started with one of my favorite Kinks songs “Waterloo Sunset” being played by the protagonist on his turntable. Please.)

Director Jason Orley doesn’t stray too far out of his lane, as this rom-com hits all the beats and tropes you’d expect. In fact, every scenario that happened I saw coming down Broadway. But ya know what? I had a smile on my face the whole time, and a few big laughs. There were also moments I had tears in my eyes. One of those involves a kid having problems at home with his parents. Slate’s character talks to him and makes him feel better about his life. Perhaps credit should go to screenwriters Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (who also gave us the wonderful Love, Simon).

This is the perfect movie for people to see this Valentine’s Day weekend. It’s not just a movie the women will like. Trust me. And any guy out there who doesn’t laugh when Jenny Slate convinces Day she could seduce a man, because…she once kissed her P.E. teacher, who was married to a woman that was really hot, so…it became a big thing. That’s comedy gold right there.

3 stars out of 5.

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