I WANT YOU BACK (2022) – Romantic Comedy is Sincere, Honest, and Very Funny

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes a romantic comedy that gets nearly everything right.

I WANT YOU BACK (2022), a new Amazon original movie, works because unlike a lot of other recent comedies, it doesn’t get bogged down with over-the-top vulgar humor or lose its way with unrealistic situations for the sake of trying to be funny. The script by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger in spite of its comedic shenanigans remains rooted in reality which results in a surprisingly fresh take on love and relationships in the here and now.

The movie opens with two break-ups. Noah (Scott Eastwood) breaks up with Emma (Jenny Slate) after a six-month relationship, as Noah feels like Emma just doesn’t have her life figured out, and he wants to move on to someone who does. Anne (Gina Rodriguez) breaks up with Peter (Charlie Day) after a six-year relationship because she feels he is stuck, and she wants to pursue her hopes and dreams, but feels she won’t be able to as long as she is with Peter.

Shortly thereafter, Emma and Peter happen to meet in the stairwell of their office building, as they work for different businesses on different floors inside the same building. They’re both in the stairwell crying over their break-ups, and they strike up a conversation. Later they agree to go out for drinks, and they get plastered as they commiserate. They agree to become each other’s “sadness sisters,” meaning that to help each other resist the urge to call their exes, they will call each other instead. Later, when they learn that both Noah and Anne are seeing new people, they come up with a plan to break up each relationship, hoping that this will lead to Noah and Anne “coming to their senses” and returning to Emma and Peter.

So, Emma volunteers at the middle school where Anne teaches English to insert herself in between Anne and her new crush, the drama teacher there, Logan (Manny Jacinto). Meanwhile, Peter joins the gym where Noah works and allows Noah to become his personal trainer in the hopes of becoming best buddies so he can help guide Noah away from his new girlfriend Ginny (Clark Backo) and back to Emma. Let the comedic games begin!

And while Emma proves very adept at being the seductress and getting in between Logan and Anne, Peter finds his job more difficult as Noah turns out to be an incredibly nice guy, and the two become real friends, and most importantly, Noah is really in love with Ginny.

I WANT YOU BACK is full of so many moments that work, from genuine sincere moments, like Emma’s friendship with a troubled middle school boy, to hilarious comedic ones, as in the sequence where Peter and Noah allow themselves to be picked up by a group of women at a club. Or the scene where Peter finds himself trapped in the bedroom when Noah plans to propose to Ginny. Everything plays out in satisfying fashion, including the climax, which takes place at a wedding on a river boat which brings Peter, Anne, Emma, Logan, Noah, and Ginny all together, and the ending, which the film gets right.

I really enjoyed I WANT YOU BACK, and I was probably most impressed by the screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. First off, I laughed a lot during this movie, which is the true indicator of how good a comedy is. The writing and dialogue were spot on. The conversation between Peter and Emma, for instance, over whether you should put on your own oxygen mask first or put the mask on your loved one first on a plane is a keeper.

Director Jason Orley makes sure we get to know all the characters well, especially the four main ones. The film takes its time fleshing out these folks, and the movie is better for it. Part of the reason the comedy works so well is that we know the characters, and what they are thinking and feeling. The situations are also genuinely amusing.

Charlie Day is very funny as Peter, the nice guy who Emma says is the type of man someone could fall in love with… over a long period of time. And while he’s not sure how to take that, she says it’s a compliment, that the “slow burn” guys are the best. What I liked best about Day’s performance here is it never becomes too over-the-top. He keeps Peter grounded in reality which actually makes the guy even funnier.

Jenny Slate is equally as good as Emma. She has the arduous task of playing a quirky character who most people just don’t understand, but she succeeds in getting the audience to understand Emma. And as Emma, she gets most of the best scenes in the movie.

Scott Eastwood exudes sincerity as Noah, and it’s one of Eastwood’s best performances yet. Noah could have been such a cliche character: the dumb hunk, the handsome guy who tries to be loving but sucks at it, or the complete jerk. But Noah is none of these things. He really is a decent, insightful person. The scene at the club where he says he can’t go too far because of Ginny but gets drunk anyway and goes home with the women along with Peter, is ripe for him to fail at keeping his word, but things don’t play out that way. He even has a poignant conversation later with Emma saying that she never seemed happy with him and that they had so little in common, and so he asks her point blank why she thought he was her true love? And Emma answers that she just wanted the process to be over, she wanted to have found somebody so badly. It’s a wonderfully sincere and honest moment, and I WANT YOU BACK is full of similar moments just like this.

Gina Rodriguez draws the short straw with Anne, as she is probably the least likable of the four characters, as she seems the shallowest. But she still gets to enjoy some sincere moments as well.

Manny Jacinto also enjoys some fine moments as Logan, the middle school drama teacher who really wants to be working on Broadway. And Luke David Blumm is very good as the middle school student who Emma befriends and helps out with.

I WANT YOU BACK is that rare comedy which understands that realistic, honest situations can be just as funny as over-the-top exaggerated ones, sometimes even more so.

If you’re looking for a satisfying romantic comedy this Valentine’s Day, look no further than I WANT YOU BACK.

It’s the perfect match.

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CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (2014)

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Horrible Bosses 2 - poster

Here’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (2014) which went live this past weekend at cinemaknifefight.com, your home for nonstop movie content posted nearly every day.

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (2014)

Movie Review by Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: A dentist’s office.  MICHAEL ARRUDA sits in the dental chair, as a beautiful female dentist approaches him with a seductive walk.)

DENTIST BABE (in a sultry voice):  I’m going to blow— your mind.

MICHAEL ARRUDA (smiles dreamily at the camera):  The things I do for this column.

DENTIST BABE:  And after that I’ll stroke— your ego.

MA:  My ego is looking forward to it.  But first I have a movie to review.

DENTIST BABE:  Review the movie later.

MA:  I wish I could, but a movie reviewer’s job is never done.  We’ll finish this conversation later.

DENTIST BABE:  We’ll do more than that. (Whispers in MA’s ear.)

MA:  Wow.  I think my deductible just went up.

Welcome everyone to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  I’m flying solo tonight as L.L. Soares is off on another assignment.

Tonight’s movie is HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (2014), the inevitable sequel to HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011), a film I liked a lot, but seriously, did it really need a sequel?  I don’t think so.

Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudekis are back once again as three hapless friends who once more find themselves on the wrong side of an inept crime attempt, only this time it’s not murder but a harebrained kidnapping scheme.

The film opens with Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudekis) trying to make it in the business world on their own.  Since they had such horrible bosses in the first movie, they’ve decided to start their own business and be their own bosses.  Their idea is the “Shower Buddy” a type of shower head that not only sprays water but shampoo as well, an idea they modeled after the contraptions used in car washes.

They’re approached by businessman Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) and his son Rex (Chris Pine) who agree to finance their “Shower Buddy” venture.  But when Bert and Rex double cross Nick, Dale, and Kurt, and steal their business idea from them, the three buddies decide to fight back.  Realizing that their attempts at murder didn’t work out very well last time, they decide this time to try their hand at kidnapping.

They plan to kidnap Rex and force his father Bert to pay a huge ransom for his return, and to this end they turn to their old friend MF Jones (Jamie Foxx) for advice.  As you would imagine, things don’t go as planned, and Nick, Dale, and Kurt spend the rest of the movie getting into one bind after another.  The harder they try to make their plot work, the worse things get for them.

One of the best things about the first HORRIBLE BOSSES was that it had a fun story that made sense.  Three guys, each with a horrible boss, decide to take a page out of Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) and murder each other’s bosses.  It had a proven gimmick, and it was funny.

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2, however, doesn’t have this gimmick.  The idea that these three guys would try to kidnap someone after they failed so miserably at their attempts at crime in the first film makes little sense.  I didn’t believe the plot in this one for a second.

DENTIST BABE:  But it’s a silly comedy.  Why do you care about the plot?

MA:  Well, it’s not so much about caring about the plot.  It’s more a matter of having the story make sense so the film plays out like a comic story rather than just a series of random jokes by three funny guys.

DENTIST BABE:  I don’t see what the big deal is.  Speaking of big, you’ve got the biggest- smile.

MA:  Gee, thanks.

Anyway, getting back to the review, the story in HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 is secondary.  It’s goofy and implausible, and so while there are plenty of funny parts in this movie, it’s never as fun as its predecessor, which in spite of its over-the-top humor did have a solid story.

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 definitely plays out like a sequel.  It’s got the same characters from the first film back again for another go at crime, only this time it’s all rather unnecessary.  Give me a better more plausible story and I like this movie much more.  It also scores high on the raunchy meter, at least in terms of language, but this doesn’t always translate into laughs, and it doesn’t here.

DENTIST BABE:  Raunchy?  That sounds like my type of movie.

MA:  Yes, you probably would like this one more than me, no doubt, but then again, my reasons for not loving it have little to do with it being raunchy.  I just wanted it to be funnier.

DENIST BABE:  I like raunchy.  (Again, whispers in MA’s ear.)

MA:  Enough of that.  I need a clear mind until I finish this review.  Okay?  Clear!

DENTIST BABE:  Clear, as in this.  (With her back to the camera, she opens her white dentist coat and flashes MA.)

MA (looks at camera): What movie am I reviewing again?

DENTIST BABE:  HORRIBLE BOSSES 2.

MA:  Yes, of course.

DENTIST BABE:  Are you done yet?

MA:  Not the words I want to hear from a woman.  But, I am almost finished with the review.  Onward!

Jason Bateman as Nick is the one guy with a head on his shoulders.  He spends the movie telling his friends Dale and Kurt what idiots they are and how bad their ideas are, and of course they don’t listen to him.  Bateman’s pretty much the straight man throughout, and he’s much more enjoyable here than he was in last year’s BAD WORDS (2013).

Jason Sudekis as Kurt and Charlie Day as Dale play equally inept buffoons, and seriously, I don’t remember them being as completely clueless in the last movie as they are in this one.  Sometimes they were a little too idiotic and did things that were so stupid they weren’t really funny.  In one scene their plan for breaking into a home was contingent on the door being unlocked.  Seriously?  Still, Sudekis and Day are both pretty funny, and they get most of the laughs in the movie, but I enjoyed them both more in the first film than in this one.

Chris Pine has a field day playing the wildly unpredictable Rex Hanson, and while it was fun to watch Pine ham it up, unfortunately the character really wasn’t all that funny.  Christoph Waltz as Rex’s father Bert plays the heavy here, but it’s a do-nothing standard villain role for Waltz, a role way beneath Waltz’s acting abilities.

Jamie Foxx gets a decent share of laughs in his reprisal of the character MF Jones from the first movie, but it’s a shtick we’ve seen before and in this movie it’s nothing new.  Incidentally, this film reunites Foxx for the first time with his co-star Christoph Waltz from DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) although they don’t share any scenes in this one, and that’s too bad.  It might have been fun to have a little in-joke featuring the two of them, but this movie isn’t that clever.

Speaking of rehashing things from the first movie, both Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey return, as they also reprise their roles from the first movie.  Aniston fares better than Spacey, who pretty much just has a glorified cameo.  Had the writers actually decided to give Spacey’s character something to do it would have made things interesting.  Aniston returns as her sex-addicted dentist Dr. Julia Harris, and she gets a couple of amusing scenes, but they’re not as good as her scenes in the first film.

DENTIST BABE:  She sounds like someone I know.

MA:  Doesn’t she?

And for fans of TV’s BREAKING BAD, Jonathan Banks, who played Mike on BREAKING BAD shows up here in a thankless role as a hard-nosed police detective.  Banks gets to go around spouting tough guy lines in a role that’s ultimately not very important, but it was still fun to watch him do his thing.

HORRIBLE BOSSESS 2 was written and directed by Sean Anders, who just wrote DUMB AND DUMBER TO (2014), as well as WE’RE THE MILLERS (2013), and HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (2010).  I enjoyed last year’s WE’RE THE MILLERS more than HORRIBLE BOSSES 2.

Admittedly, some of the jokes are pretty funny, like when Nick finds himself at a sexual addiction support group and thinks he’s at an AA meeting, but there are also plenty of misfires.

I wish the film had shown more creativity and imagination.  For example, there’s a sequence where Nick, Kurt, and Dale are interviewing for their company and they keep hiring unqualified beautiful women, and it’s a funny scene, but it’s also a sequence that misses the chance to do something more.  It would have been fun to see Nick, Kurt, and Dale attempt to be bosses, and I hoped there would be some scenes where we’d see them interact as bosses with the characters they hired, but the film doesn’t go in this direction.

I laughed here and there, but overall, HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 is like so many other movie sequels.  It’s okay, but ultimately it’s nothing more than a rehash of the first film, only not as good.

I give HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 a mediocre two knives.

Okay, now that I’m done with the review, I can turn my attention to— where did she go?  Hello?  Did she leave?  (Finds note and reads it.)  “Come into the X-ray room.”  Hmm.  Okay.  I guess I need some x-rays.

Well, folks, that wraps things up here, and I’ll see you again next week with a review of another new movie.

(Opens door to the x-ray room)  Hello?  I’m here for my x-ray.

DENTIST BABE VOICE FROM INSIDE ROOM:  You mean xxx-ray.

MA:  I’m not sure my policy covers three x-rays.  (Looks at camera)  Well, that is what we’re talking about, after all, isn’t it?   (smirks).

(Enters the x-ray room and closes the door behind him.)

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