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"ISN'T IT ROMANTIC"
(2019) (Rebel Wilson, Adam Devine) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Romantic Comedy: After receiving a bump to the head a woman who doesn't believe in romantic comedies suddenly finds herself stuck inside one.
PLOT:
Natalie (REBEL WILSON) is a thirty-something woman who's never bought into the fairy tale aspect of romantic comedies, what with her mom having taught her that stories like that don't happen to people like them. She makes sure to point that out to her assistant, Whitney (BETTY GILPIN), who watches such movies at work, an architectural firm where many of the employees don't take Natalie seriously despite being an architect.

That is, except for Whitney as well as coworker Josh (ADAM DEVINE) who Natalie believes is always staring at a large billboard outside her office window that features swimsuit model Isabella (PRIYANKA CHOPRA). Even their newest client, Blake (LIAM HEMSWORTH), views Natalie as the coffee girl rather than someone who will be drawing designs for his latest project. Things change for her when she runs face-first into a pillar while trying to ward off a thief. She ends up in the hospital where the hunky doctor seems too good to be true, but she's in for a bigger surprise when she returns home to find her modest apartment now all swanky.

Whitney is suddenly her in-office enemy, uber-rich Blake is now smitten with Natalie and she has a new gay best friend in Donny (BRANDON SCOTT JONES), and Josh ends up saving Isabella and they become an item. From all of that, Natalie realizes she's somehow stuck inside a real-life romantic comedy that includes her hearing her own voice-over narration and people breaking into spontaneous dance numbers. From that point on, and in true genre form, she begins to realize that Josh is actually the man for her.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what does that make a parody? Semi sincere? A dual-edge form of flattery? After all, a pure imitation is essentially a replica of something that preceded it, or as English writer Eustace Budgell stated in the early 18th century -- "a kind of artless flattery."

Parodies, on the other hand, aren't intended to be duplicates. Instead, they're designed to point out whatever the familiar features might be and then exaggerate or simply poke fun at them. Sometimes that's done with a bit of venom (usually as related to people doing comedy impersonations of politicians) but more often than not it's done with a touch or two of love or at least admiration.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the biggest problem facing "Isn't It Romantic" -- when not taking into account the mission question mark at the end of the title. It's a spoof of romantic comedies that doesn't go for the jugular enough and ultimately ends up becoming a romantic comedy itself, something, I suppose, fans of rom-coms will appreciate.

But for those of us who bought into the notion -- based on the ads -- that this looked like it might be a biting satire of the movie genre that arguably has the most consistent conventions and tropes, it ends up as something of an occasionally charming and sporadically funny offering that otherwise feels like a bit of a disappointment and certainly a missed opportunity.

The set-up, while not entirely original, has a decent premise and related potential. After a very brief prologue features our young future protagonist being told by her mother that rom-com fairy tales don't happen to people like them, we flash forward twenty-five years. That girl has grown up into Natalie (Rebel Wilson) who has taken her mom's advice to heart and let it fester like a raging, decades-long infection.

When her assistant (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching such movies at their workplace (an architectural firm where very few people take Natalie seriously), she goes on a long tirade about the genre's usual trappings and so on. A few scenes later a bump to the head results in her waking up in what, much to her initial confusion turned skepticism turned full-on horror, turns out to be a romantic comedy world.

Suddenly her neighborhood has the sort of storefronts you typically see in such movies, her apartment is now swanky, she has a stereotypically flamboyant gay best friend (Brandon Scott Jones), and her assistant no longer works for her, what with being her in-office nemesis.

She goes to her friend and co-worker (Adam Devine) for help, thinking he'll recognize and appreciate the genre pickle she's now in, but he ends up having a meet-cute moment when he saves the life of a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model (Priyanka Chopra), with the two quickly becoming an item.

Director Todd Strauss-Schulson and screenwriters Erin Cardillo and Dana Fox & Katie Silberman have obviously done their homework (or perhaps were already just diehard fans of rom-coms) and have filled their film with most, if not all of the usual things found in such pics.

However, and aside from a sequence where Natalie realizes she can't have sex with her new hunky boyfriend (Chris Hemsworth) because PG-13 romantic comedies never fully show such action and thus each attempt only results in her waking up in bed the next morning and another recurring bit where she can't drop the F-bomb as desired (ditto), most of the satirical bits feel more like checkbox items rather than inspired or creative satire.

As mentioned before, there are some charming moments and some funny bits scattered throughout the film's nearly 90-minute runtime. And if you like rom-coms and weren't looking for a scathing parody of them, you'll probably enjoy this offering, especially since it ends up turning into one itself.

But if you were expecting more of a takedown of a genre that's pretty much gotten to the point of being a parody of itself anyway, you might think it could have been better. "Isn't It Romantic" rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed February 7, 2019 / Posted February 13, 2019


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