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Blu-ray Review: Isn’t It Romantic

May 21, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The romantic comedy Isn’t It Romantic, which positions itself as a meta sendup of romantic comedy clichés before fully embracing them itself, opens with our protagonist Natalie (Rebel Wilson) as an adolescent girl (Alexandra Kis) back in Australia, happily watching the 1990 Julia Roberts classic Pretty Woman.

But Natalie’s mother (Jennifer Saunders) warns her that romantic comedies aren’t realistic, especially not for women like them who don’t fit the stereotypical mould, and it’s not long before she herself becomes cynical and comes to hate the genre that she loved as a kid.

We cut to her as an adult, and Natalie is now living in New York City and working as an architect, with her colleagues at the firm mostly treating her like a secretary. When she catches her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) watching The Wedding Singer on her computer in the middle of the work day, Natalie starts to rant about all of the romantic comedy clichés, and how they give women unrealistic expectations about what to expect in the real world.

Natalie ends up hitting her head while trying to fight off a mugger on the subway platform, and this is where the film’s meta high concept kicks in. She soon wakes up in a very fancy emergency room in an idyllic version of New York, where she has a closet full of nice clothes, attractive men are always around for her to bump into, flowers are everywhere, and it actually smells nice. The douchey billionaire Blake (Liam Hemsworth), who previously mistook her for the coffee girl at work, now not only notices her but is inexplicably in love with her, and her neighbour Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) is suddenly acting like her stereotypical gay BFF, another romantic comedy cliché that she railed against.

Whitney is now mean to her, which plays into the unfortunate rom-com stereotype of women in the workplace acting like mortal enemies with each other, and Natalie soon realizes that she is literally trapped in the sort of romantic comedy that she grew up watching. Figuring that she can only get out when she plays by the rules, Natalie tries to get Blake to fall in love with her. But she soon realizes that maybe she is actually meant to be with her co-worker Josh (Adam Devine), whom she has constantly friend-zoned in the real world but has a not so secret crush on her.

The screenplay by Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox and Katie Silberman, who all have some previous experience with romantic comedies, does show a level of self awareness at certain points in how it lays out the many stereotypes that have come to define the genre. But it’s not long before the film starts to check off every single one of these clichés itself. Despite trying to do something fresh and new, the story is thoroughly predictable, and the film doesn’t do as much with its clever premise as it could have, instead essentially unfolding as a glorified fantasy sequence.

It ultimately can’t compete with the various classic romantic comedies that it’s poking fun at, and for a film that is supposed to be about overcoming clichés, I wish it had broken the mould a little more. There is sort of sitcom feel to the whole thing, and the “trapped in a movie” conceit feels underdeveloped. It’s worth noting that director Todd Strauss-Schulson previously did something similar in his 2015 meta horror movie The Final Girl, with better and somewhat more interesting results.

But even though Isn’t It Romantic could have been a lot better, and offers little more than fluff, I do have to say that it’s often still fairly watchable. Wilson is a good fit for the leading role, striking a fine balance between cynicism and sincerity in her delivery, and the supporting actors around her are able to deliver their share of funny moments as well. This is a mediocre but still fitfully amusing romantic comedy that fans of the genre might find at least mildly enjoyable to watch.

The Blu-ray also includes a selection of deleted scenes as well as the short featurette I Wanna Dance!, which looks at the film’s cheesy, tongue-in-cheek musical numbers.

Isn’t It Romantic is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 88 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 21st, 2019

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