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Roger Kumble’s Falling Inn Love is pure romantic fantasy. It starts with a protagonist entering an online contest that turns out somehow ISN’T a scam, and follows through with a New Zealand village that may as well have never existed prior to the arrival and perpetual residence of an American stranger, and is completely obsessed with everything about her. In respect of this obvious heightened atmosphere, it’s easy to forgive its sillier plot developments and schmaltzy cuteness, but what still drags the whole experience is just how boring and uninspired it manages to be – seeming to believe that the simple fact that it’s set in New Zealand is enough for it to experiment with nothing outside of the firmly established genre playbook.
It certainly feels like it could be based on an airport paperback, but Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy take credit for this one as the writers of what is an original screenplay centering on frustrated, San Francisco-based housing developer Gabriela (Christina Milian). She faces a “when it rains, it pours” kind of a day, both learning that the firm for which she works is closing and that her commitment-phobic boyfriend (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) is rejecting her ultimatum for a proposal, but she finds an escape from her life when she wins the aforementioned impossibly real online contest and jets off to Oceania.
Of course, as everyone who has ever seen a movie can predict, what’s advertised as a beautiful, rustic inn turns out to be a dilapidated mess – but Gabriela is in luck! Not only does she happen to have the perfect background for restoring the house, what with her plans for an energy efficient home never even getting to the pitch stage, but she also happens to meet the only five people she needs to know as soon as she arrives in town. This includes the dreamy contractor Jake (Adam Demos), whose tragically dead childhood sweetheart prevents him from getting close to anyone… but with her particular pluck and charm, Gabriela may be just the perfect person to change that.
Though he has spent most of the last decade working in television, Roger Kumble’s filmography has great surprises on it like Cruel Intentions and Just Friends, but Falling Inn Love is far below the bar set by those titles. There is not a single inventive idea to be found in all 98 minutes of it, as you can probably fill in all of the details that I left out of the description above with near perfect accuracy by simply having a base awareness of how these kinds of movies play out. This is the kind of feature that can make you tired of an adorable goat that just randomly pops up from scene to scene – and that’s actually pretty challenging.
Falling Inn Love did at the very least make the effort to actually film in New Zealand, which is a legitimately rare setting for a romantic comedy, but the movie really does very little to actually stand apart with that in mind. There’s a 20 second bit where Gabriela first gets into the wrong side of a car, and then nearly gets in an accident driving on the wrong side of the road, but that’s really as far as the embrace of culture shock goes. If you were to alter the accents and a few examples of regional lingo, you could easily transplant this script to rural Alabama and not miss a beat.
This is a film made with a very particular audience in mind – one of which I will admit I am not a part – but you’d hope that a movie might still have something to enjoy for the stray random viewer just looking to Netflix in aid of killing an hour and a half. But it really doesn’t. Really the most entertainment you get is a giggle at the stupid/silly title, but you can obviously get that laugh by just scrolling past it.