Movie Review: Isn't It Romantic

Rom-com parody comes about 15 years too late, but still has its charms.

By Max Weiss | February 14, 2019, 5:18 pm

-Warner Bros.

Movie Review: Isn't It Romantic

Rom-com parody comes about 15 years too late, but still has its charms.

By Max Weiss | February 14, 2019, 5:18 pm

-Warner Bros.

It’s an odd time to do a send-up of romantic comedies. The genre is out of fashion—in fact, I’m racking my brain to think of the last traditional rom-com to appear in movie theaters. (Crazy Rich Asians comes close, although it’s really more of a rollicking ensemble piece; the wonderful The Big Sick is definitely a rom-com, but hardly a traditional one.) For the most part, the rom-com genre has landed on TV (think Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Set It Up or even the delightful TV Land sitcom Younger.)

It’s no wonder then, that when Isn’t It Romantic wants to cite the rom-coms that our jaded, unlucky-in-love heroine (Rebel Wilson) has had it up to here with, they have to dip into the wayback machine: Pretty Woman, Sweet Home Alabama, Notting Hill, The Wedding Singer.

In the office where Wilson’s Natalie works as a junior architect, she rattles off all the things she hates about rom-coms: The cliched gay bestie; the makeover montages; the way it pits women against each other in the workplace; the way the heroine’s clumsiness is considered endearing instead of annoying; the slow-motion runs at the end to catch a plane or break up a wedding.

Then she gets mugged in the subway, knocks her head on a pole, and wakes up in a rom-com herself. New York is suddenly shiny and clean and smells of lavender. Her apartment is twice its size and filled with great furniture and designer shoes. She has that gay bestie (Brandon Scott Jones), who is only around to give “you go, girl!" affirmations and, for the most part, has no inner life of his own. There are spontaneous dance numbers.

At work, her old assistant and best friend Whitney (Betty Gilpin) is suddenly a competitive power-bitch gunning for Natalie’s job. Her doting guy pal Josh (Adam Devine) is still sweet on her, but now he’s dating a supermodel and “yoga ambassador” (“That’s not a thing,” mutters Natalie), played by Priyanka Chopra. And a hunky billionaire hotel owner, Blake (Liam Hemsworth), thinks Natalie is “beguiling.”

The whole film goes down smoothly, thanks to a cute (if rarely laugh-out-loud) script and a winning performance by Rebel Wilson, who effortlessly displays her movie star chops. Wilson has always been funny when she’s done gross-out humor, exaggerated come hithers, and pratfalls, but she’s relatively dialed down here—and still, well, beguiling. Hemsworth is great as the smooth-talking cad, proving that both the Hemsworth boys have comedic chops to go along with their preternatural good looks (damn them!). And truth be told, this is the first time I’ve actually liked Adam Devine, probably because he’s playing a sweetheart instead of his usual smarmy frat boy type.

So yeah, Isn’t It Romantic is unnecessary but it is diverting all the same and even has some wise things to say about regressive rom-com tropes. (Hint: The person who really completes you was staring back at you in the mirror all along.)

Meet The Author

Max Weiss is the editor-in-chief of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.

You May Also Like

The Chatter

What You Need to Know for Artscape 2019

A changing footprint, exciting exhibitions, and nods to the moon landing highlight annual festival.

Arts & Culture

Music Reviews: June 2019

The latest from Abdu Ali and Kotic Couture.

Arts District

Is the BSO Headed for a Lockout?

In recent weeks, the ongoing dispute between musicians and management has reached a tipping point over financial woes.

Arts District

The Iconic Marble Bar is Being Revived Into a Community Cafe

Mobtown Ballroom owners plan to pay homage to the former punk rock haven.

Arts District

Where to Watch Outdoor Movies This Summer

From drive-in movies to waterfront features, catch these flicks around town.

On The Town

Baltimore Pride Events to Keep You Celebrating All Month Long

From rainbow-themed drinks to glow parties, there are plenty of ways to show your pride this June.

Connect With Us

Most Read

The Banksy of Baltimore: Reed Bmore has built a local following for his thought-provoking wire sculptures.

Movie Review: Yesterday: British fantasy is perfectly diverting, but barely scratches the surface of its intriguing premise.

NBA Veteran Rudy Gay Gives Back to the Place Where It All Started: The Baltimore native and 13-year pro says “an idle mind is the devil's playground.”

Larder Chef Helena del Pesco Talks Intersection Between Food and Art: Trading San Francisco Bay for the Chesapeake Bay, the chef makes her mark in Old Goucher.

Eyes of the Law: In new book, former undercover cop Jim Cabezas details his career fighting corruption and blindness.