I’m starting to wonder if there are enough of these ‘character bumps their head, wakes up to some wacky side effects, then has a life-changing epiphany’ movies to qualify as a genre? Probably not, but the latest one “Isn’t It Romantic” is certainly not the first movie to build itself around this narrative gimmick.
To be honest this was not something I originally planned to see. I’m not all that high on either Rebel Wilson or Liam Hemsworth and the film’s trailer was pretty cringy. But then I began reading good things about it. Suddenly its attempt at spoofing the romantic comedy genre sounded a little more intriguing. It does start promising but begins to chug in the middle before becoming more or less the very thing it’s satirizing.
Any issues I have with “Isn’t It Romantic” can’t be traced to Wilson who gives a sincere and sympathetic performance. It’s hard not to feel for her character Natalie. She’s a young New York architect with self-esteem issues who seems content with the hapless hand she has been dealt. She’s taken advantage of by her co-workers and even her company’s new billionaire playboy client (Hemsworth). The one exception is Natalie’s best friend Josh (Adam DeVine) who is clearly smitten with her but (of course) she’s oblivious to it.
Enter the big bump on the noggin that knocks Natalie out cold. She wakes up in an alternate reality with hunky guys galore and all of them head-over-heels for her. Tops on the list is Hemsworth’s snobbish and studly Blake, now a airheaded dolt. Several other weird anomalies leads Natalie to conclude she is trapped inside a romantic comedy.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson gets as much mileage as he can out of his rom-com parody. It works best in the film’s first half where everything is still nice and fresh. Anyone who has watched their fair share of romantic comedies will get a kick out of several gags that poke fun at many of the genres most overused tropes. And Wilson does a good job falling into the wackiness of the whole concept. Hemsworth is equally good as the good-looking goofball, reminding me of the role his brother Chris played in the not-so-great 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot.
But the second half doesn’t fare quite as well. Strauss-Schulson takes a handful of jokes and milks them dry. A cringe-worthy gay sidekick and a constantly obscured f-bomb top that list. And then there is what I alluded to above, the movie becoming what it’s spoofing. You can actively see the movie working to differentiate itself from the standard romantic comedy norm, but at the same time it very much ends up feeling really similar – silly, a little sappy, and utterly predictable.
“Isn’t It Romantic” is a decent entry into the head bonk genre. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s far from being the sharp-witted satire that it very well could have been. It’s a movie that leans heavily on its central conceit but doesn’t really see it all the way through. That’s a shame because the cast certainly seems game. It’s the material that let’s them down in the end.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS