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It's Valentine's Day and, as is frequently the case, that means it's time for another big screen romantic comedy. Rebel Wilson's Isn't it Romantic is, without question, a rom-com, but one with a unique angle in that it actually is self-aware and also acts of a send up of the genre. How well does it all work? Based on the reviews, it works well enough. The film isn't the romantic comedy revolution it could have been, but it's a light and fun movie that at worst is a slightly better than average example of the genre.
I wrote the official CinemaBlend review for Isn't it Romantic and I largely enjoyed it.I gave the film 3.5 stars because I thought Rebel Wilson did a great job leading the film while poking fun at genre conventions, even if the film falters by ultimately falling victim to all those same genre conventions.
Isn't it Romantic wants to be both send up and homage to the genre and while it does an admirable job, it ultimately doesn't commit to either concept enough and thus, the ending especially, gets a little muddy.
For the most part, it seems that a lot of other critics tend to agree. Few are over the moon about Isn't it Romantic, nobody is going to call the film revolutionary, but several critics seem to have enjoyed it. CNN has one of the most glowing takes, simply saying that the time spent with the film is fun, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Isn't It Romantic has charm to burn, in a light-hearted send-up of romantic comedies that playfully turns all the familiar tropes into a lively vehicle for Rebel Wilson. The movie owes a thematic debt to Groundhog Day, but mostly -- in a film so conscious of conventions that it niftily bleeps its foul language -- it's a heckuva lot of fun.
The Associated Press is slightly more critical of its take, pointing out that Isn't it Romantic, like so many of the romantic comedies it references, never gets too deep, but in the end, sometimes the fun of stories like this is all we really want.
Isn’t It Romantic stays pretty surface level, which makes for a fine and pleasurable viewing experience, but doesn’t exactly do anything to show that rom-coms would be better if the best friends had more of an inner life, for example. In fact, it just kind of redeems the formula in some ways. It’s fun to join a world with unrealistically glamorous jobs and apartments and wardrobes and cities, especially when there’s a good story to go along with it! And also that you can never go wrong with an upbeat song and dance scene. No guilt necessary.
To be fair, the song and dance numbers (yes, plural) are pure sugar-coated fun. There's little need for them, but sometimes you just need to enjoy fun pop music and choreography.
Isn't it Romantic sees Rebel Wilson play a woman who hates the unrealistic portrayal of love and relationships that we've all seen in one too many romantic comedy. However, a bump on the head causes her to wake up in a parallel world where everything around her works by the rules of the genre. Men are automatically interested in her. She has a perfect life with an amazing job and a great New York apartment. Of course, since she's not a fan of these movies, all Wilson's character wants is to find a way out.
The solution, she figures, is to follow the rules of romantic comedies and make it to the end of the movie. What follows is a collection of self-aware jokes as the movie never quite breaks the fourth wall, but certainly gives it a good kick now and then. Rebel Wilson is unable to drop F-bombs because romantic comedies are all PG-13. Her attempts at actually having sex are all thwarted because the story just cuts away to the next morning.
Of course, while Isn't it Romantic takes aim at the tropes of the rom-com, it can't actually do that without including all those same tropes in the plot, which means that for some critics, like The Film Stage, Isn't it Romantic tries to have it both ways and it just can't.
Unfortunately, a one-note romantic comedy with all the tropes isn't exactly the best way to parody the genre, even if it's wrapped in an empowering story that tackles the gender problems at the core of heteronormative rom-coms.
In the end, what matters most to any rom-com (even an unconventional one) is that the story is both romantic and funny. If the chemistry between the characters or the humor is especially good, it can successfully elevate "just another romantic comedy" into an acceptable, if not exceptional, addition. However, several reviewers feel that Isn't it Romantic fails at one or both elements. The Toronto Star puts it succinctly.
A sloppily written story that fails as both romance and comedy.
In the end, the question of whether or not you like Isn't it Romantic may simply fall to your feelings on romantic comedies in general or Rebel Wilson specifically. While most reviews praise Wilson, I certainly thought she carried the film well, not everybody agrees. Comedy may be the most subjective film genre, not everybody finds the same things funny, and that means that you get a variety of takes from different critics regarding whether or not the film is actually funny.
While the jokes at the expense of the romantic comedy genre will likely be especially fun for those who don't care for rom-coms, the fact is that, in the final analysis, the movie is still a rom-com. Isn't it Romantic doesn't skewer the genre enough to make the haters happy. If what you want is a romantic comedy then the jokes poking fun at your favorite film style won't be enough to turn you off, or hide the fact that the film doesn't hate rom-coms as much as it might claim.
And since it's Valentine's Day, there will probably be more people looking for a light and funny romance than usual. You could certainly do worse.
Isn't it Romantic opens in theaters today.