Poor Peter and Emma!
Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) both work in the same building in downtown Atlanta. That’s one thing that they have in common. Peter works for a soulless nursing home company. At a typical meeting, Peter listens as the other executives debate whether or not it’s actually necessary to spend so much money feeding the residents. Peter dreams of starting his own nursing home, one where the elderly will be treated with the respect that they deserve. Emma is an administrative assistant in an orthodontist’s office. She lives in an apartment with two college students, even though she hasn’t been enrolled in college for years. Though they’re both in their early thirties, neither Peter nor Emma have really be able to get their lives going yet. That’s another thing that they have in common.
And there’s a third thing that they have in common. They’ve both recently been dumped. Anne (Gina Rodriguez) left Peter because she felt that Peter was stuck in a rut and she’s now dating a pretentious but dashing middle school theater teacher named Logan (Manny Jacinto). Emma’s ex, personal trainer Noah (Scott Eastwood), is now deeply in love with a pastry chef named Ginny (Clark Backo). Anne and Noah may have moved on but both Peter and Emma want their exes back.
When Emma and Peter meet each other while looking for a place to cry in the office stairwell, they strike up a quick friendship. They also hatch a brilliant scheme. Emma will volunteer to work on Logan’s production of Little Shop of Horrors and, while doing so, she’ll seduce him and cause Anne to break up with him. Meanwhile, Peter will befriend Noah and convince him that Ginny really isn’t right for him.
Of course, things don’t go as smoothly as expected. We’ve all seen Strangers on a Train enough times to know that these “You’ll help me and I’ll help you” schemes never seem to work out. Peter does manage to befriend Noah but it turns out that Noah is deeply in love with Ginny. Meanwhile, Logan is more than open to the idea of being seduced but it turns out that Anne is also interested in exploring new things. While Peter and Noah are hitting the clubs and getting taunted, for being “old,” by Pete Davidson, Emma is being forced to sing Suddenly Seymour with the 13 year-old star of Little Shop of Horrors. Peter and Emma are also growing closer, even as they try to get back with their exes.
Currently streaming on Prime, I Want You Back is an amusing romantic comedy, one that works due to a surprisingly clever script and a charming cast. For all the indignities that Peter and Emma go through in their quest to win back the exes, the film always treats their emotions with respect. The scene in which 30-something Emma wipes away tears while a bespectacled 13 year-old sings Suddenly Seymour to her is a wonderfully comedic moment but, because Emma feels like a fully realized character instead of just a comedic caricature, the film works on an emotional level as well. “I’m not ready for this,” Emma mutters as the kid starts to sing and it’s a funny line that works because it’s also a line to which everyone can relate. Everyone knows the feeling. Jenny Slate and Charlie Day are charming as the two leads and both Scott Eastwood and Gina Rodriguez bring some welcome depth to the role of the exes. No one in this film turns out to be as simple or as one-dimensional as the viewer might initially expect. Instead, we find ourselves caring about not only Emma and Peter but also about Noah and Anne, as well.
I Want You Back is a sweet-natured and genuinely funny romantic comedy. The final scene is perfect. Check it out on Prime.