[Screen It]


(2022) (Jenny Slate, Charlie Day) (R)

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Romantic Comedy: After being dumped by their significant others, a man and woman conspire to sabotage their ex's new relationships.

Emma (JENNY SLATE) is a 32-year-old orthodontic office receptionist who's shocked when her gym-owning boyfriend of the past eighteen months, Noah (SCOTT EASTWOOD), abruptly dumps her. It's even worse for Peter (CHARLIE DAY), a VP at a retirement home company whose live-in girlfriend of six years, middle school English teacher Anne (GINA RODRIGUEZ), similarly dumps him with no warning. He and Emma meet in a moment of self-pity in the building stairwell that connects their offices, and they decide to be there to support each other.

With both still wanting to get back with their exes, they concoct a plan to make Noah and Anne realize the error of their ways. Peter will join Noah's gym, befriend him, and convince the man that his new flame, pie shop owner Ginny (CLARK BACKO), isn't as good as Emma. Meanwhile, Emma plots to seduce Anne's new boyfriend and coworker, theater teacher Logan (MANNY JACINTO), and unintentionally ends up befriending 12-year-old Trevor (LUKE DAVID BLUMM) who's been forced to work on the school's production of "Little Shop of Horrors."

With the plan set in motion, Peter and Emma slowly begin to realize that the person best suited for them might be their partner in the dual break-up scheme.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

Rejection of any type hurts to one degree or another, but few cut deep into your soul like those falling into the romance category. After all, unless one is doing things wrong, romantic relationships are the most intimate where partners make themselves vulnerable by truly exposing their thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and so on. Thus, when one is dumped by their partner, it stings on a variety of levels.

So much so that the "victim" often doesn't think right after the break-up bomb has been dropped and blows up their current and future plans. All of which results in both rash and calculated decisions to either get the person back or make them feel some reciprocal pain.

Both of those types come into play in the appropriately titled "I Want You Back," a romantic comedy where two strangers decide to team up to help each other win back their significant other who's just dumped them for someone else.

One of those players is Peter (Charlie Day), a vice-president at an assisted living firm who once dreamed of revolutionizing that world but has since settled into a 9 to 5 cog role in the corporate world. That complacency hasn't sat well with his girlfriend of the past six years, Anne (Gina Rodriguez), a middle school English teacher who wants someone more "out there" and thinks she's found that in her theater teacher coworker, Logan (Manny Jacinto). Accordingly, Anne dumps Peter.

Apparently, it's dump day as orthodontic office receptionist Emma (Jenny Slate) gets the brunch-time heave-ho from her boyfriend of 18 months, Noah (Scott Eastwood). He runs a gym and thinks he's found his kindred spirit in Ginny (Clark Backo) who runs a pie shop.

Unbeknownst to the rejected, they work in the same office building and accidentally meet in the shared stairwell during an unplanned cryfest. Feeling mutually and simultaneously jilted, they concoct an idea where they'll covertly infiltrate the jilter's lives and cause them to rethink their newfound romance. For Peter, that means befriending Noah and convincing him that he's made the wrong romantic choice, while Emma gets the potentially dicier job of trying to seduce Logan so that Anne learns her lesson.

In that regard, things play out pretty much as you might expect in this decidedly R-rated rom-com -- from director Jason Orley who works from a screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger - albeit in an entertaining enough fashion to earn a recommendation for adult viewers. The two main characters "meet cute" and their friendship turns to unexpected (to them, at least) budding romance as they try to pull off their scheme (with Day and Slate having some good comedic timing and chemistry together).

That's followed by the inevitable third-act falling out. The only real surprise (beyond a comedian's brief cameo in a wild scene) is that Emma strikes up a friendship of sorts with a 12-year-old boy (played by Luke David Blumm) who's forced to work on the school play, no doubt partly due to his "Bad News Bears" sort of coarse kid personality.

In essence, he sort of takes the place of the usual gay friend sounding board character often found in such rom-coms, but some of their interaction and other moments give the film some nice, heartfelt material to offset some of the eye-rolling moments.

Fully cognizant that contrivances come with the territory in these sorts of films, I simply went along with all of that and found no reason to dump "I Want You Back." It rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed February 8, 2022 / Posted February 11, 2022

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