Women hitting their heads and awakening in a life-changing alternate reality is becoming its own genre these days, and this is not necessarily a good thing. From I Feel Pretty to What Men Want, this plot device du jour is meant to provide a fun filmic twist that also satisfies women’s aspirational desires: to be beautiful, to (finally) understand the opposite sex and, in the latest case, the Rebel Wilson comedy Isn’t It Romantic?, to live a “perfect” life like the women depicted in romantic comedies.
The fact that Isn’t It Romantic? is a rom-com itself means the entire movie is a self-parody. And that means it’s clever but also predictable (it’s supposed to be, see), neither of which matters if it’s funny. Rebel Wilson was the funniest thing in the Pitch Perfect movies and How to Be Single, and she was a riot in Bridesmaids, too, but carrying her own film, at least in this ironic context, something feels off. There’s some laughs, but they aren’t the big feel-good kind, nor are they the omigod-did-she-really-say-that? kind that Wilson provided us in the aforementioned films that made her a star.
The comic moments are more mocking recognition because, let’s face it, we’ve all seen The Wedding Singer, My Best Friend’s Wedding and 13 Going on 30 a few times (us older folks can factor in John Hughes films, too), so we know not only what to expect but how it’s all going to end. Even when these films try to surprise us, we know we’re going to get some semblance of the typical love story construct — hardship, revelation, happily ever after.
Rebel Wilson is caught between Liam Hemsworth, left, and Adam DeVine in Isn’t It Romantic?.
The supporting cast sure is nice to look at, regardless. Liam Hemsworth (whom we will identify as Miley Cyrus’ hubby because (1) his first starring role was with his lady in a romantic movie, and (2) until he gets a few more blockbusters under his belt like his bro, Chris, that’s what he’s best known for) has a lot of fun with the role of Wilson’s man-candy douchebag love interest. Priyanka Chopra (for equal treatment: She just married Nick Jonas) is a huge star in her native India, and she may be the most comfortable in her role here, that of beautiful barrier between Wilson and the guy she should really be with (played by her Pitch Perfect co-star Adam DeVine).
Like Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer before her, Wilson (who also produced this one) is supposed to be an “unconventional” movie star, which means we probably won’t ever get to see her in a traditional rom-com. But Isn’t It Romantic? comes close (again ironically), and with a PG-13 rating that means Wilson’s raunchy appeal is null here. What’s left is an over-the-top skewering of clichés and stereotypes (the competitive woman at the office, the gay best friend, the friend-zoned guy who’s set to marry someone else but should be with the protagonist — who, of course is plain-looking at first but proves to be a makeover away from knockout).
Underneath all the tropes is a very simple love story where the point is — can you guess? — really about loving yourself. It’s a great message, but it always is, even if it doesn’t always make for a great movie. In this film’s case, it makes for a pretty OK one, at least for the Valentine’s Day weekend and Netflix in a few months.