Rom-Com "I Want You Back": Good Enough for a Prime Video and Chill Kind of Night

A man and woman sit at a table outside together
[L-R] Jenny Slate as EMMA, Charlie Day as PETER in I WANT YOU BACK

Getting dumped always hurts, leaving the dumpee searching for answers. In this contemporary romantic comedy directed by Jason Orley (Big Time Adolescence), two recent dumpees decide to execute a plot to help each other win back their paramours, using the "Criss Cross" method invented long ago in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. Call it a less sexy Cruel Intentions or Strangers on a Train for lovelorn millennials – either way, it's a delightful ruse that's good enough for a Prime Video and chill night at home.

Peter (Charlie Day; "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") and Emma (Jenny Slate; "Obvious Child") work in the same building. When the two of them escape into the nearest stairwell for a good old cry, it's mutual affinity at first sight. The two of them bond at a drunken karaoke night, and they vow to be each other's "sadness sisters." It's not too long before they realize their significant others have moved onto new people and come up with a scheme to break up the new relationships. Emma will seduce Logan (Manny Jacinto), the new drama teacher whom Peter's ex, Anne (Gina Rodriguez; "Jane the Virgin"), has taken a shine to, while Peter will befriend Jenny's ex Noah (Scott Eastwood; Wrath of Man) and convince him that pie shop owner Ginny (Clark Backo; "Letterkenny") isn't nearly as fun as Emma. The two set out to accomplish Operation Breakup, coming together to share reports along the way.

A man and woman look at laptop together
[L-R] Clark Backo as GINNY, Scott Eastwood as NOAH in I WANT YOU BACK 

I Want You Back takes a relatable situation as the basis for this romantic comedy full of wit and wisecracks. Everyone knows the pain of breaking up and that feeling that you would do anything to win your person back. To this, we add the extra sting of seeing your ex move on through social media stalking and the solace you find when someone can relate to how you feel. Lastly, there's a subtle theme of finding satisfaction in all areas of life. I Want You Back correlates your ability to be happy with someone to being happy with where you are in life in a satisfying way.

It's easy to root for both Peter and Emma. Both are likable characters with believable chemistry together. Their rapport together plays like an updated screwball comedy. They match wits and movie references with ease. Awkward situations arise believably in their attempts to divide the new couples and those play out in ways that feel like improvisational comedy. Screenplay writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger continue their reputation from projects like Love, Simon; "This is Us;" and "How I Met Your Father;" effortlessly blending heart and humor. And refreshingly, the dumpers aren't portrayed as doing anything wrong by choosing to end the relationship.

A woman sits on bed while a man sits at foot of the bed
[L-R] Charlie Day as PETER, Gina Rodriguez as ANNE in I WANT YOU BACK

Aptaker and Berger even create space in the story for granting a heartwarming subplot that has Emma becoming a safe adult for middle schooler Trevor (Luke David Blumm) to confide in. Trevor starts out as a sullen teenager helping with props at the school's production of Little Shop of Horrors. Emma attends the rehearsals as a volunteer to get closer to drama teacher Logan, and finds she can have a positive impact on Trevor's life along the way. Both Emma and Peter aren't where they are in life, and this plot point leads to Emma's realization of where her talents lie.

While the story plays predictably, the talented screenwriting keeps the proceedings from being dull. By necessity, these two schemers will be found out and that's one of the most rewarding parts of this film. One of the parts that didn't work – Pete Davidson – but he seems to be a favorite of Jason Orley. And Pete Davidson is a small price to pay for some good laughs when needed. Whether you are in the bloom of new love, recently dumped, or just want a forgettable laugh, I Want You Back will go down easy for most adult viewers. 

Release info: On Prime Video February 11, 2022

Final score: 3 out of 5