Friday, February 11, 2022

Weekend Screen Scene - I Want You Back, Blacklight

Romantic comedies are such a well-trod genre that, for the majority of them, it is less about the destination --we all know the destination; it's love--and more about the journey. I Want You Back owes a lot to the rom coms that have come before it (particularity When Harry Met Sally, which itself owed a lot to Woody Allen's oeuvre), but the cast and refreshingly uncynical screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger make this comedy the kind you won't regret spending the evening with.

Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) are dumped by their respective partners, Anne (Gina Rodriguez) a dissatisfied with life school teacher, and Noah (Scott Eastwood), an anxious for adulthood personal trainer. When Peter and Emma meet-cute, both crying over their breakups in the stairwell of their office building, they decide to team up and try to break up their ex's new relationships in the hopes it will force them back into their respective arms. A series of awkward and amusing attempts at seduction and bromance follow.

Charlie Day can be an acquired taste. Sometimes his manic energy is so strong it creates a black hole that sucks in all the comedy around him. But he's blessedly restrained in I Want You Back, allowing his fellow castmates to share in the comedic spotlight. I find Jenny Slate immensely charming, and have loved her in everything she's done; someone please give her a series that lasts for several seasons, stat! That likeability is a tremendous asset because even when her character does some morally questionable things, you root for her, and have faith no one is really going to get hurt.

Laughs, tears, and the occasional inexplicable cameo make I Want You Back perfect Valentine's Day viewing, though perhaps a little more so for the brokenhearted than the happily entwined.

 I Want You Back is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Speaking of genres, Liam Neeson movies seem to have emerged as a genre unto themselves. They always, of course, star Liam Neeson. In them, Neeson has some kind of mission, issues with family, and he always possesses a very particular set of skills. Like a rom-com, you pretty much know what you're going to get with a Liam Neeson movie. And for some people, no matter how bad the movie actually is, it will be enough.

I'm not one of those people. Blacklight is cliched, silly, and, the biggest sin of all, boring. Opening with the murder of a politician who is very clearly and uncomfortably modeled after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, before moving on to the rescue of an undercover agent trapped amongst a group of backwoods white supremacists, Blacklight's political viewpoint just gets murkier as its conspiracy plot advances. 

Neeson's OCD FBI agent is there to help reveal the corruption in the bureau, while also, of course, resolving his family issues (strained relationship with his daughter), and using his particular set of skills (a more sadistic, or at least more deadly series of Home Alone-esque booby traps) to off the bad guys. But even a few good car chases and 'splosions aren't enough to make the movie even half-way enjoyable. I don't want Liam Neeson to retire, but perhaps the Liam Neeson genre should.

Blacklight is currently playing in theaters.

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