Script Doctor: I Want You Back (2022)

A critic should review the film they see. Not the film they want. But while watching the romcom I Want You Back I kept thinking of ways to tighten the flabby 110-minute screenplay. So, rather than write a review, I’d like to try a new format. As “script doctor” I will break down the film’s structure and propose a few tweaks. There will be spoilers.

The Set Up

The three-minute trailer encapsulates the film’s first half. Jenny Slate and Charlie Day agree to sabotage each other’s exes. Day will lure himbo Scott Eastwood away from nondescript Clark Backo. Slate will lure himbo Manny Jacinto from chilly Gina Rodriguez. Six characters. Two storylines. Plenty of opportunities for hi-jinks.

The break ups are efficiently handled in the first ten minutes. The next thirteen are spent on Slate and Day’s budding friendship. This sequence was my favorite part of the film. The stars have chemistry and share a mutual respect. They clear the trickiest hurdle of any romcom: convincing the audience that they belong together. Then Jenny says “We have to break them up.” It’s all downhill from there.

Bromance

Day hires Eastwood as a personal trainer. There’s not much to the role. He’s a handsome bro who loves his job. His banter with Day can be homoerotic (“Pop that shirt off… I’ll take mine off too.”) but, sadly, the gents aren’t going to kiss. You’ll have to watch Marco Berger’s Plan B for that sort of twist.

I predicted the men would bond. And that Eastwood would bring Day out of his shell. They go to a party where something else happens. Eastwood exits and Day gets a life lesson from special guest star Pete Davidson. The SNL clown starred in the director’s last film. His cameo here seems harmless. But it’s a mistake.

SUGGESTION #1: Cut Davidson. These lessons should come from Eastwood.

The Bechdel Test

Slate never talks to another woman one on one. Her roommates are a straight couple who hate her. She never meets Backo. And she snubs Rodriguez by flirting with Jacinto in front of her.

Jacinto’s directing a middle school production of Little Shop of Horrors. Jenny bonds with a surly boy on the tech crew (Luke David Blumm) and steps on as an understudy. This subplot eats 10 minutes of screen time. The scenes are lovely but they stop the plot cold.

SUGGESTION #2: Here’s where I’d make my biggest change. Rodriguez says she gave up on her dream of being an actress. But the film never uses this. Put Rodriguez on the crew instead of the kid. She helps Slate grow up. Slate helps her rekindle her passions. Now Slate can feel guilt for the havoc she’s wreaking. This raises the stakes.

The Finale

We know how this will end. Slate and Day will realize they’re perfect for each other. But I never invested in the secondary couples who drive the plot. And the film is weaker because of it. Either develop these characters or cut them completely. As is, I’d rather watch Slate and Day hang out and talk about their dreams

Have you seen it? What did you think? Do you play script doctor when you watch a film?