The hook (or gimmick) of the new PG-13 romantic comedy, “Isn’t It Romantic”, is that it sets out to expose the flaws in… PG-13 romantic comedies. But it doesn’t exactly deliver on its promise.
Rebel Wilson, in her first leading role, plays Natalie. She’s a New York City architect who’s always despised rom-coms because of their lack of believability. Not to mention the fact that they never portray plus-size women.
In the midst of a purse snatching Natalie hits her head and blacks-out. When she wakes up, she’s in a picturesque, “pitch perfect” (that pun is very much intended) alternate universe. NYC is clean, everyone is happy and guys start paying more attention to her. Natalie soon figures out she’s trapped in a real-life rom-com.
Screenwriters Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox and Katie Silberman aren’t subtle when it comes to the jabs they take at traditional studio rom-coms: from the stereotypes in the characters and dialogue, narration, song choices, scenery and costumes. There are a number of clever lines and situations, though they never exceed the chuckle-worthy level, maybe because most are quite obvious. Director Todd Strauss-Schulson (“A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”) even stages a couple of blatant, albeit amusing musical numbers.
But because the treatment is so straightforward, “Isn’t It Romantic” ends-up going down the same path as the rom-coms it’s poking fun at, including “The Wedding Singer”, “13 Going on 30”, “Pretty Woman”, “Notting Hill” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding”. (The latter three, of course, all star Julia Roberts. A surprise, tongue-in-cheek cameo from her would’ve added a little bite.) Therefore, the story arc becomes more of a copy instead of a parody.
At a breezy 88 minutes, “Isn’t It Romantic” plays it safe. Natalie realizes that she needs to embrace the rom-com formula to ultimately get what she wants. If you’re looking for any kind of profound commentary on the genre or its impact on women/society – that movie is still waiting to be made.
But this concept of playing with such a beloved genre will play well to the film’s core audience: 16-29 year old women who watch “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, “10 Things I Hate About You” and “27 Dresses” over and over and over again. And in about two years, like all the movies I’ve mentioned so far, “Isn’t It Romantic” will end-up a staple on Freeform.
For everyone else, the film is enjoyable enough thanks to the terrific Wilson and her co-stars. The casting choice of Adam Devine as Natalie’s best friend (and potential soulmate) Josh was a smart one. These two “Pitch Perfect” franchise alums have natural chemistry from the opening scene. Liam Hemsworth and Priyanka Chopra play the new love interests and both are clearly having a good time.
And if rom-coms are your thing, so will you.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Isn’t It Romantic” gets a C+.