‘I Want You Back’ Review: Scheming Hearts

Directed by Jason Orley, “I Want You Back” is a throwback rom-com about the love lives of straight people, and its jokes hit about as much as they miss. The story is mediocre and formulaic, yes, but pleasantly so. And it shows not only ladies dealing in blubbering heartbreak, but guys going through it as well.

Peter (Charlie Day), a manager at a nursing home company, is dumped by Anne (Gina Rodriguez), his English-teacher girlfriend of six years. In the throes of a quarter-life crisis, Anne finds him complacent and shacks up with the alluringly bohemian Logan (Manny Jacinto), who dreams of Off Broadway fame but settles for directing school plays.

Meanwhile Emma (Jenny Slate), a flighty receptionist living with college students, is given the boot by Noah (Scott Eastwood), a personal trainer who has fallen for a more emotionally mature pie shop owner.

Commence the weepy despairing and Instagram stalking.

A commiseration-and-karaoke-filled friendship unfolds between Emma and Peter, prompting some mutually beneficial scheming to break up their exes’ new relationships: Peter will pull Noah back into bachelorhood and Emma will seduce Logan. It sort of works, though primarily as a conduit for self-discovery. High jinks also ensue, as when Emma, endearingly delusional (Slate’s forte), volunteers for Logan’s new production and takes the stage for a bizarrely sincere rendition of “Suddenly, Seymour.” Or when the paternal Peter, high on MDMA, goes diving into a hot tub off a rooftop with girls half his age.

Orley and the screenwriters Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (the duo behind “Love, Simon”) build out a not entirely shallow ensemble story, even if they rely on new archetypes for their modern lovers, like the late-blooming messy woman or the sensitive guy with baby fever. “I Want You Back” isn’t particularly clever or emotionally stirring, but it does briskly deliver on the corny promises of the genre, navigating relatable relationship issues by the least relatable means.

I Want You Back
Rated R for some rear-end nudity, brief sex scenes, drug use and language. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes. Watch on Amazon.

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