The hilarious ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ walks a fine line between honoring and mocking romantic comedies.
Kernel Rating: 4 (4 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 88 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. The satirical ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ points out the absurdity of the romantic comedy genre while also participating in some of the formula’s fun elements, like song-and-dance numbers, satisfying romances, and lush costumes. The movie presents clichés—the hunky love interest, the gay best friend, the female competition at work—but then subverts them, so by the end of the film, the positive messages about friendship, loving oneself, and being confident shine through. Characters kiss, sex is implied, a male character is shown in a towel, and characters discuss the size of another’s genitalia; cursing is common, including one unbleeped use of the f-word and various unbleeped uses; and a character takes shots before performing at karaoke.
By Roxana Hadadi
“Isn’t It Romantic” is aware of the movie you would expect it to be. Romantic comedies are glossy fantasies in which the female characters compete with each other, love is prioritized above all other feelings, and everyone is wealthy and happy. And that’s about one-half of what “Isn’t It Romantic” is—when protagonist Natalie (Rebel Wilson, of “Ice Age: Continental Drift”Ice Age: Continental Drift”) hits her head and wakes up living in a genre she hates. Her dislike of this cinematic form, and how the movie subverts our expectations, make “Isn’t It Romantic” a hilariously winking ode and sendup of itself.
Natalie is an architect living in a cramped New York City apartment, working at a firm where one coworker only talks to her when handing her trash to throw away and where her boss ignores her potential, and convinced that she doesn’t need romantic love to be happy. Part of that is inspired by self-preservation, and part of it is from a belief that romantic comedy films promise their viewers a reality that doesn’t exist. Her best friends at work, in particular Josh (Adam Devine, who previously appeared with Wilson in the “Pitch Perfect” films), disagree, but they can’t change Natalie’s mind. She doesn’t think the world is a particularly nice or loving place.
Until she hits her head while running away from a mugger and wakes up in what seems to be, well, a romantic comedy, with all the tropes and stereotypes of that film genre. A gorgeous man, Blake (Liam Hemsworth, of “Independence Day: Resurgence”), falls for her. Every element of her life, from her wardrobe to her apartment, is upgraded to luxury. But is all of this actually making Natalie happy? Or is there something about herself that needs to change before she can truly achieve satisfaction with her life?
Refreshingly, “Isn’t It Romantic” doesn’t focus on Wilson’s appearance (unlike last year’s romantic comedy starring Amy Schumer, “I Feel Pretty”) but on her lack of confidence in herself. She emphasizes, “I’m not special,” but the movie takes time to build what makes her so, why her friends care about her so deeply, and why she’s good at her job; those messages will be strong and inspirational for young female viewers. And although the film mocks the romantic comedy genre, it also knows how to have fun with certain elements. A karaoke scene set to a Whitney Houston classic is a delight, and a climactic scene in which Natalie finally stands up for herself is the kind of fist-pumping moment romantic comedies thrive on.
The movie sometimes loses its rhythm and could have benefited from a more diverse cast. But overall, “Isn’t It Romantic” is an enjoyable, self-affirming choice for both fans of the romantic comedy genre and its doubters, and will be a good choice in particular for young women and older female guardians for whom Natalie’s childhood favorite film, “Pretty Woman,” is a cultural touchstone.
Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.