Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Premise: A cynical woman (Rebel Wilson) hits her head and wakes up in an alternate version of her life that follows the rules and clichés of a PG-13 romantic comedy.
What Works: Isn’t It Romantic is a likable movie. The tone is light and the film is consistently funny. Key to its affability is its lead actors. Rebel Wilson leads the film as a woman who is disillusioned about love and romance and Wilson is a perfect casting choice for this role. She’s paired with Adam Devine as a coworker who clearly has feelings for her and the two of them make a likeable couple. Isn’t It Romantic ought to satisfy the romantic comedy audience while appealing to those who wouldn’t normally watch that kind of film. This picture is funny and self-aware in the way it sends up all the familiar romantic comedy tropes while satisfying them. Fans of a genre as formulaic as the romantic comedy are well aware of the clichés; that’s what they come to see and the filmmakers of Isn’t It Romantic give the audience what they want while poking fun at those clichés and how ridiculous they are. The filmmakers thread that needle with good humor so as not to alienate the core audience but also speak to viewers who might not usually enjoy this genre.
What Doesn’t: Isn’t It Romantic leaves the viewer wishing it did more with its premise. Unlike other films that knowingly play with genre conventions such as Scream or Deadpool, Isn’t It Romantic doesn’t do much with its self-awareness. The filmmakers poke fun at the clichés but they don’t put any new spin on them. The story adheres to all the conventions and so the film is very predictable. Just as in a straightforward romantic comedy, we know what’s coming but the self-awareness spoils the suspension of familiarity that many genre fans indulge while watching a film like this. The refusal to interrogate the genre is especially a problem for Isn’t It Romantic because the film opens with Rebel Wilson’s character trashing romantic comedies and calling them “toxic.” Because the story starts by belaboring that point, it is incumbent upon the filmmakers to affirm or deny that argument. They don’t do that and so the issue hangs over the rest of the film. The ultimate lesson that Wilson’s character learns from her experience is rote and unimaginative. It’s a safe and standard lesson that is as cliché as anything this film ridicules.
Bottom Line: Isn’t It Romantic it lampoons the romantic comedy with modest success. The film doesn’t really reframe the genre and its critiques are shallow but Isn’t It Romantic is enjoyable enough and gives its audience what they want.
Episode: #739 (March 3, 2019)