Prime Video has been hiding 2022's best comedy movie, and I regret sleeping on it

The poster for I Want You Back
The poster for I Want You Back (Image credit: Amazon)

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 has been - some of the team on TechRadar think Top Gun: Maverick is the front-runner and others are looking to flicks later in the year like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever or the long-awaited Avatar sequel. 

However, this is all wrong - the best movie of 2022 isn't a big blockbuster, it's not a franchise film and it's actually already out on Prime Video.

I'm talking about I Want You Back, a romantic comedy that was released in February to - well, not a total lack of marketing, but Amazon hasn't exactly pushed it as much as big-budget spectacles like The Tomorrow War or The Rings of Power.

The movie stars Charlie Day and Jenny Slate, and it's about two recently-dumped office workers who team up to wreck their ex's new relationships. If you've ever seen a rom-com you know exactly where this is going - the formulaic nature of the movie is evident even from the trailer or poster, and it's what put me off watching it initially.

But six months after it was released, I finally caught up on it, and I hate myself for not seeing it sooner. I'm imploring you , don't not sleep on this, watch it as soon as you can.  

Why it's so great

I want you back movie still

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Charlie Day and Jenny Slate are fantastic comic actors.

Both are just as talented for the comedic scenes, as they are believable for the serious dramatic ones, and it's rare you have actors that can juggle both so well.

I'm not being overly 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 stop. The idiosyncrasies and dialogue delivery had me cracking up, and that was before the movie got to the actual jokes.

The characters are spot on in terms of writing and performance, with idiosyncrasies that inform the characters and dialogue that becomes pertinent a surprising amount of the time - I've seen far too many comedies where the characters are quirky or exaggerated in an ill-informed attempt at humor and it rarely works.

It's gentle comedy too - the kind of stuff you can watch in a bad mood and be cheered up by. That's particularly true for some of the weirder jokes - one scene shows Slate's character telling Day's about their dead father - all while the sounds of a young couple hooking up can be heard in the background. It's bizarre but lightly funny, and the film always finds ways to make every scene a little more entertaining.

This is as much down to Day and Slate's characters as it is the writing. I Want You Back's humor isn't as much 'set up, pay off' as some movies - that's why I called it gentle - with a fair mix of puns, smart juxtapositions and character performance providing most of the laughs. The fact that the characters acknowledge, and make jokes about, the noises in the aforementioned scene is a great example of how affable it is.

One thing in particular that stood out to me is transitions. I love interesting transitions in movies (the way that the story jumps from one scene to another), and I don't remember the last time I saw such amazing ones as here.

I'm not kidding - the best joke of the whole movie is in one of these changes. I'm not going to spoil it (especially since it's a bit NSFW, and I'm not sure if my editor will be keen with me spelling it out), but if you've seen the film, it's the one that cuts to the Little Shop of Horrors monster eating someone. And if you haven't seen it, but just want to know what I'm talking about, bring up the movie and skip to time code 1:12:12 (or maybe watch from the start to the end, that's something you can do too!)

But there's a consistent level of quality to the transitions, even when it comes down to the simple transitions that set up and then play with where you think the next scene will go. One example is when Day's character is asking Slate's to go and do something after their first meeting - we presume it's to go for a coffee, or dinner, or maybe even a beer, but then we cut to them drunkenly doing karaoke together.

A cut like that isn't just funny, skirting around what we expect, but it's smart writing. We skip all the awkward 'getting-to-know-you' parts, with the director having faith in the audience that we understand this happened off-camera, and can jump straight into comedy when the characters are better acquainted.

Avoiding all the worst clichés...

I want you back movie still

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

I'm not ashamed in saying that I like romantic-comedies - there are some I absolutely love. But I definitely don't love all of them - I've seen loads of bad or plain boring ones too, and there are a few tropes I've come to expect - many of which I Want You Back thankfully (and sometimes wittily) ignores.

Little of the humor is based on socially-awkward situations - there's no accidental hook-ups or characters being brash in public or random misunderstandings that could easily be solved by the characters simply communicating with each other - that trope is so tired!

Lazier writers would make the two characters' exes become involved themselves, in order to give Day and Slate's characters a more concise goal, but I think the way it works - of Day trying to break up Slate's ex's relationship, and vice versa, gives the story more scope to explore its characters.

Plus - and I think this is my favorite aspect - the story isn't about the characters changing who they are to find love. That's a tired trope that really sends the wrong message about relationships. No, these characters are both fine people, and the film just shows them learning that and finding others who appreciate it. Like I said, it's a gentle film.

Because I Want You Back avoids loads of the pit-falls of weaker rom-coms, and is surprisingly funny too, it's easier to look past the fact that it's quite by-the-numbers in terms of overall structure.

The film's not perfect, as there's an awkward and forced-feeling tumble into the third act - this is particularly jarring when you notice that most of the sub-plots wrap up in the second act. 

Also because of the way the ending was handled, we do end on a weirdly melancholic note (light spoilers ahead, obviously). Even though Day and Slate get together (obviously) we don't get a denouement to really celebrate it. Plus, Day's friendship with supporting actor Scott Eastman's character never gets resolved, despite it being a core sub-plot.

But as you can tell by the fact I've written this article (and re-watched the movie for it), these issues don't ruin the film. A story is about the journey, not the destination, and we still get to enjoy two fantastic acts.

Prime Video, Netflix, HBO Max - make more movies like this...

I want you back movie still

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

I can't find a budget listed online for I Want You Back but it clearly cost a lot less to make than lots of the super-budget blockbusters streaming services like Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV Plus and more keep churning out. Rom-coms are a little more expensive to produce than you'd expect, but it's not like we're seeing much CGI, green-screenery or hoards of A-list stars.

There are so many super-pricey productions that have had a resounding lack of cultural impact. I'm talking The Tomorrow War, The Adam Project, Zack Snyder's zombie movies, The Gray Man recently, and countless TV shows. They're promoted for months, watched for one day, and forgotten about the weekend after.

It's interesting that a sit-com which was barely marketed, 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 that streaming services have hidden their best content - one of my favorite movies of 2021 was Bliss, which I saw exactly zero publicity for.

But how many I Want You Backs could you make with the budget for one Tomorrow War? How many interesting stand-alone dramas, comedies, romance movies could be made for the same amount that a generic action movie was? A few, I'd wager.

Streaming services so far are focusing too much on trying to kick-start franchises with these forgettable action movies, when they could be funding more movies like I Want You Back, and it's a real shame. 

Prime Video seems to be the only service I can rely on for good movies, and they're still few and far between. If there were more like I Want You Back, I'd get excited when I heard about some new Amazon Original or Netflix Original, instead of rolling my eyes and zoning out.

So, all you commissioning types, make more interesting comedies, and fewer brainless action romps. 

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.