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‘Isn’t It Romantic’ review: Half-hearted satirical romcom

Isn’t It Romantic embraces too much of its satirical elements that it becomes the very thing that it’s trying to avoid.

Presented as a satirical take to romcoms, Isn’t It Romantic is supposed to mock the conventions of its genre as meta as it can. In its center is a cynical architect Natalie (Rebel Wilson) who accidentally slams her head against a subway pillar, thereby causing her consciousness to drift into an alternate ‘romcom-functioning’ New York. The said dream sequence is almost worth the whole film’s length so needless to say, boundless tropes will be ticked off. Magazine spread locations? Check. An absurd meet cute? Check. A “CW hot” leading man who uses the word “beguiling” as an endearing description? An omnipresent gay sidekick who gives sound love advices? And finally, a modest and sweet officemate who’s on the verge of being friendzoned? Triple check to those.

And before we forget, like most romcoms, this film needs to be wholesome at a PG-13 level. Hence, expletives are continuously bleeped by the sound of a passing truck and all sexual acts are given the ‘fade-out’ treatment. Cue in the opening intro to Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” our protagonist Natalie is perfectly strapped to her journey to ‘happily ever after.’

L-R: Liam Hemsworth (Blake), Rebel Wilson (Natalie) and Adam DeVine (Josh) in ‘Isn’t It Romantic’

This won’t be the first time where director Straus-Schulson skewers the tired tropes of a certain genre – he first did it in horror back in 2015’s The Final Girls. Isn’t It Romantic, however, is busy on pointing out everything that it’s not trying to be, that it consequently falls into the trap of becoming a standard romcom itself. The plot sags with reinforced cliches and the emotional depth feels like it’s stuck on a surface-level. Hence, comes the disappointment that it’s clearly not as clever as it thinks it is. To be fair, I’m not expecting for a groundbreaking work after seeing the trailer – the film, yet could have sustained its gimmick by opting for a more subversive path, say in a Deadpool kind of way.

As the film commits the crime of becoming the exact thing that it’s supposed to make fun of, the rest of the proceedings becomes painfully predictable. By now, it should not be a surprise if it all boils down to a last-minute dash to the altar and an unabashed yet exuberant musical number. It’s a shame because the script does not shape up to the potential of its protagonist – romcoms rarely have a plus-sized woman for its lead. Wilson charges on the role with reliable comic presence particularly when it comes to her deadpan irony and her penchant for physical comedy. She also has an amazing rapport with fellow Pitch Perfect alum Adam DeVine who’s at his most charming self. Elsewhere, it never hurts to see Liam Hemsworth and Priyanka Chopra taking a jab at improv comedy.

L-R: DeVine, Wilson and Priyanka Chopra (Isabella) in ‘Isn’t It Romantic’

As a romcom deconstruction piece, Isn’t It Romantic mostly parodies the obvious tropes that viewers are already accustomed to decades ago. To its credit, the film does not completely stop at self-awareness. It challenges the regressive thinking and toxic fantasies associated with traditional romcoms by dishing out messages on self-worth, regardless how lacking the film’s buildup is.

As a full-fledged romcom – which is actually what it is – the film is quite harmless yet forgettable. It tries to be above several classics by overtly referencing them throughout (Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, 13 Going on 30), but in reality, the margin is not really wide enough.

2.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson and written by Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox and Katie Silberman, ‘Isn’t It Romantic‘ stars Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam DeVine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin and Brandon Scott Jones. Run time: 89 minutes.
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