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Isn't It Romantic Movie Review

Isn't It Romantic (2019) movie poster Isn't It Romantic

Theatrical Release: February 13, 2019 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson / Writers: Erin Cardillo (story & screenplay); Dana Fox, Katie Silberman (screenplay)

Cast: Rebel Wilson (Natalie), Liam Hemsworth (Blake), Adam DeVine (Josh), Priyanka Chopra (Isabella), Betty Gilpin (Whitney), Brandon Scott Jones (Donny), Jennifer Saunders (Natalie's Mom), Alexandra Kis (12 Year Old Natalie), Jay Oakerson (Gary)

 

It wouldn't be Valentine's Day this week without a studio romantic comedy opening in theaters. Fortunately, this year's offering, Warner/New Line's Isn't It Romantic, is well aware of the genre it belongs to and has fun poking fun at the many conventions. So prevalent are romcoms that you're kind of surprised we're not tired of spoofs of them by now. But it's been thirteen years since Date Movie gave
the genre the Friedberg-Seltzer treatment and the last time the romcom was sent up at length, David Wain's 2014 gem They Came Together, it barely made it to theaters and general moviegoers apparently did not (and still do not) get the joke. Here's hoping Isn't It Romantic fares better.

Written by three women, two of whom have penned and/or produced other romcoms before, Isn't It Romantic finds a creative way to make fun of the genre while very much adhering to its traditions. Our protagonist is Natalie (Rebel Wilson), an Australian architect living in New York City. We open with Natalie as a child watching Pretty Woman in awe and having her mother (a single-scene Jennifer Saunders) explain to her life won't be anything like that.

Now in her thirties, Natalie has strong opinions on romantic comedies, disapproving of the unrealistic expectations they set for girls dreaming of finding the perfect guy and simply falling into wealth, success, and happily ever after. When she catches her assistant (Betty Gilpin) watching The Wedding Singer on the job, Natalie seizes the opportunity to rattle off everything she doesn't like about romcoms.

After suffering head trauma, New York architect Natalie (Rebel Wilson) finds herself inside a romantic comedy universe in "Isn't It Romantic."

Natalie gets mugged at a subway station and wakes up in a hospital, but it's not like a real world hospital, for it boasts perfect sunlight and impossibly handsome doctors. It doesn't take too long for her to figure out that she's suddenly in a romantic comedy. A [bleep]-ing PG-13 one at that. The real New York is suddenly brimming with colorful flowers, quaint shops, and pedestrians who are as cheerful as they are good-looking. This is a world in which people get smitten and say as much.

One such smitten man is Blake (Liam Hemsworth), a douchey rich American client she met once who now speaks with an Australian accent and can't stop noticing how "beguiling" our clumsy, plus-sized heroine is. Natalie's assistant becomes the catty, caustic co-worker archetype just because. Her neighbor Donny (Brandon Scott Jones), a weed dealer, becomes the extremely gay best friend who's always around to listen and help out.

Meanwhile, we realize far before Natalie does that her kind, funny friend-zoned co-worker Josh (Adam DeVine) is really the man for her. Not that she needs a man to complete her, a point the movie admirably takes pains to make.

Rebel Wilson, best known for playing the character Fat Amy in the "Pitch Perfect" trilogy, finally gets a solo lead role as Natalie, the cynical protagonist of "Isn't It Romantic."

Whether you hate romantic comedies or love them, Isn't It Romantic should speak to you. The screenplay by actress-turned-writer Erin Cardillo (who alone receives story credit), Dana Fox (What Happens in Vegas, Couples Retreat, The Wedding Date), and Katie Silberman (a co-producer of Wilson's 2016 ensemble romcom How to Be Single) knows the genre's playbook inside and out, knowledge that allows it to simultaneously satirize the tropes and employ them too.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, The Final Girls) may not be versed in the genre as a filmmaker, but he knows how to craft a photogenic romcom, with impossibly spacious and stylish apartments, big, spontaneous musical numbers, poppy needle drops, and perfectly sun-kissed (or romantically rainy) compositions. A few hallmarks are mentioned by name and even if you don't know them, chances are you've seen movies like them that embody the artificial qualities that annoy and surround our protagonist.

It's kind of crazy that it's taken eight years since Bridesmaids and seven since the first Pitch Perfect for Wilson to get a chance to play solo lead. Then again, this is Hollywood. Try to think of an overweight leading lady other than Melissa McCarthy and Hairspray's Nikki Blonsky. Wilson shines here, playing an appealing and amusing heroine who is easy to relate to. She avoids going the broad, physical comedy route that McCarthy repeatedly embraced to success, her weight not getting the guilt-you-into-approval approach of Netflix's recent movie Dumplin'. Isn't It Romantic manages to be positive and progressive without being heavy-handed or corny.

In the end, since it still must uphold certain principles of the format, Isn't It Romantic can't exactly shatter through the glass ceiling of the genre, but it at least grazes it with its brisk, witty satire and winsome spirit.

Related Reviews:
Rebel Wilson: How to Be Single Pain & Gain The Brothers Grimsby | Adam DeVine: Workaholics: Seasons 1 & 2 The Intern
Liam Hemsworth: The Dressmaker Paranoia The Hunger Games: 4-Film Collection Independence Day: Resurgence
Romantic Comedies: Sweet Home Alabama Enchanted My Big Fat Greek Wedding This Means War
Now in Theaters: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part The Kid Who Would Be King Serenity The Upside

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Reviewed February 12, 2019.



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