Despite the fact that we’re only halfway through 2022, there’s been a lot of talk about what the best movie of the year was – some members of the TechRadar team believe that Top Gun: Maverick is the favorite and others are looking at movies later in the year like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever or the long-awaited sequel to Avatar.
However, that’s all wrong – the best movie of 2022 isn’t a big blockbuster, it’s not a franchise movie, and it’s actually already been released on Prime Video.
I’m talking about I Want You Back, a romantic comedy that came out in February for – well, not a total lacks marketing, but Amazon hasn’t pushed it as far as big-budget shows like The Tomorrow War or The Rings of Power.
The film stars Charlie Day and Jenny Slate, and it’s about two recently dumped office workers who team up to destroy their ex’s new relationship. If you’ve ever seen a rom-com, you know exactly where it’s set – the film’s stereotypical nature is evident even from the trailer or poster, and that’s what put me off it. watch initially.
But six months after it came out, I finally caught up with it, and I hate myself for not seeing it sooner. Please don’t sleep on it, watch it as soon as you can.
Why is it so awesome
Charlie Day and Jenny Slate are fantastic comedic actors.
Both are equally talented for comedic scenes as they are believable for serious drama, and it’s rare that you have actors who can juggle the two so well.
I’m not too complimentary. I very, very rarely laugh out loud at movies or TV shows (even when I think they’re witty or funny) but for the first half of I Want You Back, I couldn’t help myself. Stop. The idiosyncrasies and delivery of the dialogue cracked me up, and that was before the movie got to the actual jokes.
The characters are perfect in terms of writing and performance, with idiosyncrasies that inform the characters and dialogue that becomes relevant a surprising amount of time – I’ve seen far too many comedies where the characters are eccentric or exaggerated in a bad way. Informed attempt at humor and it rarely works.
It’s also a sweet comedy – the kind of thing you can watch in a bad mood and rejoice. That’s especially true for some of the weirder jokes – one scene shows Slate’s character telling Day about his dead father – while the sounds of a young couple hooking up can be heard in the background. It’s bizarre but slightly funny, and the film always finds ways to make each scene a little more entertaining.
It’s as much about the characters in Day and Slate as it is about the writing. I Want You Back’s humor isn’t as “set up, pay off” as some movies – which is why I called it soft – with just the right mix of puns, clever juxtapositions and performance of characters providing most of the laughs. The fact that the characters recognize and joke about the noises of the aforementioned scene is a prime example of his affability.
One thing in particular that stood out to me was the transitions. I love interesting transitions in movies (the way the story jumps from scene to scene), and I can’t remember the last time I saw one as amazing as here.
I’m not kidding – the best joke of the whole movie is found in one of these changes. I’m not going to spoil it (especially since it’s a bit NSFW, and I don’t know if my editor will want me to spell it out), but if you’ve seen the movie, this is the one that cuts to the monster of the little shop of horrors eating someone. And if you haven’t seen it, but just want to know what I’m talking about, bring up the movie and jump to 1:12:12 timecode (or maybe watch it start to finish, that’s is something you can do too!)
But the quality level of the transitions is consistent, even when it comes to simple transitions that settle in and then play with where you think the next scene will go. An example is when Day’s character asks Slate to go do something after they first meet – we assume it’s for coffee, or dinner, or maybe even a beer, but then we cut them off doing drunk karaoke together.
A cut like that isn’t just funny, circumventing what we’ve come to expect, but it’s clever writing. We skip all the tricky parts of “getting to know you,” with the director trusting the audience that we understand this happened off-camera and can jump straight into comedy when the characters get to know each other better.
Avoid all the worst clichés…
I’m not ashamed to say that I like romantic comedies – there are some that I love. But I sure don’t like them all – I’ve seen a lot of bad or boring ones too, and there are a few tropes I expect – many of which I want you back happily (and sometimes wittily) don’t hold account.
A small part of the humor is based on socially awkward situations – there are no accidental connections or brash characters in public or random misunderstandings that could easily be resolved by the characters simply communicating with each other – this trope is so tired!
Lazier writers would force both characters’ exes to get involved themselves, in order to give Day and Slate’s characters a more concise purpose, but I think the way it works – of Day trying to break off the relationship of Slate’s ex, and vice versa, gives the story more scope to explore its characters.
Also – and I think this is my favorite aspect – the story isn’t about characters changing who they are to find love. It’s a tired trope that really sends the wrong message about relationships. No, these characters are both good people, and the movie just shows them learning that and finding other people who like it. Like I said, it’s a sweet movie.
Because I Want You Back avoids many of the pitfalls of weaker rom-coms and is surprisingly funny too, it’s easier to look past the fact that it’s quite the numbers in terms of overall structure.
The film isn’t perfect, as there’s an awkward, forced drop-off in the third act – it’s especially shocking when you notice that most of the subplots end in the second act.
Also, because of the way the ending was handled, we end on an oddly melancholy note (slight spoilers ahead, obviously). Even though Day and Slate reunite (obviously), we don’t have a denouement to really celebrate it. Additionally, Day’s friendship with supporting actor Scott Eastman’s character is never resolved, despite being a main subplot.
But as you can tell by the fact that I wrote this article (and reviewed the movie for it), these issues don’t spoil the movie. A story is about the journey, not the destination, and we can always enjoy two fantastic acts.
Prime Video, Netflix, HBO Max – make more movies like this…
I can’t find a budget listed online for I Want You Back, but it clearly costs a lot less to make than many super budget streaming services like Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV Plus and more. Romantic comedies are a bit more expensive to produce than you’d expect, but it’s not like we’re seeing a lot of CGI, green screens, or hordes of A-list stars.
There are so many super expensive productions that have had a resounding lack of cultural impact. I’m talking about The Tomorrow War, The Adam Project, Zack Snyder’s zombie movies, The Gray Man recently, and countless TV shows. They are promoted for months, watched for one day, and forgotten the next weekend.
Interestingly, a sit-com that was barely commercialized and had a lower budget than those sci-fi or action extravaganzas, is so, so much better than them. And it’s not the first time streaming services have hidden their best content – one of my favorite movies of 2021 was Bliss, which I haven’t seen any ads for.
But how many I Want You Back could you make with a Tomorrow War budget? How many interesting stand-alone dramas, comedies, romance movies could be made for the same amount of money as a generic action movie? A few, I’d bet.
So far, streaming services have been too focused on trying to launch franchises with these forgettable action movies when they could be funding more movies like I Want You Back, and that’s a real shame.
Prime Video seems to be the only service I can rely on for good movies, and they’re still in short supply. If there was more like I Want You Back, I’d be excited when I heard about a new Amazon Original or Netflix Original, instead of rolling my eyes and zone.
So all kinds of controls, make more interesting comedy and less brainless action games.