WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
Romantic comedies have been a staple in the film industry since the very beginning. The classic story of man meets woman is part of everyday life, and a movie that adds hints of fairy tale humor to it is always good for a laugh. Nowadays, this genre has been experiencing a decrease in interest, mostly due to the modern generation believing love and traditional dating are dead (and are actively working to ensure this). Young adults today have been led to believe in a negative image of romance, and thus don’t see the point in finding someone to spend the rest of their lives with.
Since childhood, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) had been taught by her disillusioned mother that romantic comedies are lies and that girls like her don’t find love. Now an architect working in New York, Natalie is an avid hater of the genre and scoffs at idea of finding true love, so much that she ignores the obvious advances of her best friend Josh (Adam DeVine). But when she knocks herself out trying to escape a mugger, she wakes up to find the city she knew now appears colorful and cheery.
Natalie is initially confused by the change, as her neighbor Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) has become a stereotypical gay sidekick and her friendly assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) is now her worst enemy. She is also the subject of affection from a previously ignorant client named Blake (Liam Hemsworth). It doesn’t take Natalie long to figure out that she is trapped within her own romantic comedy, and in order to return to the real world, she must put aside her hatred of the genre and learn what it truly means to find true love.
It was exciting to see the announcement of this film. It’s a high concept type of comedy with a lot of potential, especially since the romantic comedy genre has loads of clichés to mock. And in today’s world of toxic relationships and divorces, a clear-cut satire of the genre might have had the potential to make people see love in a much more positive light. That romance isn’t something that should be avoided because you think it will just lead to nothing, but to embrace it and realize that love is a necessary human concept.
Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t really have that in mind. Isn’t It Romantic begins with this kind of message for our lead to learn, but in the end, she doesn’t really learn it. Rather than being a story about finding love, it more or less supports the modern idea that romance isn’t something that we need in life. This strands us in a would-be hilarious satirical comedy that still has some good moments, but mostly confuses satire for basic humor.
It’s not that this movie isn’t funny. There are some very cute bits in here, and a lot of the best humor lies in the little portions of genuine satire here and there. The cast, mostly Hemsworth, DeVine, and Jones, deliver some of the films best one-liners that keep it from being relatively laugh free. There characters are concisely funny and bring a good amount of both comic relief and important drama to the story.
One of the problems is that this film doesn’t feel like a genuine satire. Good satires have a balance of humor that is makes fun of the basic formula by amping the ridiculous elements of said formula. Films of this degree are better suited when they are produced independently (like the Scary Movies or The Starving Games). This film does make good jabs at rom-com clichés to some degree of hilarity. However, some of the mocking gags are really just dressed up versions of jokes found in other movies. Also, by staying relatively safe with its PG-13 rating, the movie doesn’t get the chance to really stretch its legs and go all-out whacky with the clichés, thus lacking any true satirical bite.
Another problem with this film was, sadly, their choice in star. Rebel Wilson is a funny actress who knows how to deliver a good joke. However, her humor worked when she was the sidekick character in films like Pitch Perfect. With Wilson now in the lead role, her style of humor takes front seat. She delivers her brand of jokes, but then she keeps going, and suddenly her jokes start to overstay their welcome. The kind of humor she’s built her career around just doesn’t fit for a lead role.
The film’s biggest problem ends up being the story’s overall message. It begins by establishing that Natalie hates the genre for their over fantasizing of love and clichés that border on the offensive. This gets us to believe that, by the end of the movie, she will learn to find true love. However, in the end she learns that all she needs is to truly love herself, but still doesn’t need to find love with a man. The film presents a setup with the potential to combat the modern belief that love isn’t necessary, but ends up semi-supporting said belief in the end. Not that finding love in yourself isn’t a good message, but it shouldn’t have been the focus of the film.
Isn’t It Romantic is a worthy attempt to parody the romantic comedies that have been with us for years, delivering some good-intended humor and commentary on the genre’s common conventions. Unfortunately, a star that isn’t quite fit for a leading role, a frustrating desire to “play it safe” and a message that counteracts itself by the end makes this feel ultimately unfulfilling. It was still a fun film with some good humor, but with a premise this original and the chance to counter the beliefs in love today, it should have been so much better.