As I watched Isn’t It Romantic, my thoughts drifted to Leonard Maltin’s review of a 1948 film of the same name. Maltin set the Guinness World Record for the shortest review with just one word: “No.” I may not have Maltin’s gift for succinctness, but I think I could boil my opinion of this movie down to one sentence: “Yes, and it makes the wise move of never taking itself seriously.”
Rebel Wilson plays Natalie, a frumpy, downtrodden architect who has resigned herself to a life of frazzled obscurity. She rails about stilted, obnoxious romantic comedies and the hopeless people who fawn over them. Natalie battles with a subway purse-snatcher and takes a conk to the noggin. She awakens in the very world she loathes: A saccharine, slickly-produced rom-com, replete with a catchy pop soundtrack and an audience-friendly PG-13 rating.
The movie then sets up the clichés like bowling pins for Natalie to flatten: The Hunky Billionaire (Liam Hemsworth), who can’t resist Natalie’s newly adorable klutziness, the Non-Threatening Gay Confidante (Brandon Scott Jones), the Bitchy Co-Worker Who Conspires Against the Hero for…Reasons (Betty Gilpin), and finally, the Plucky Love Interest Hiding in Plain Sight (Adam DeVine). Natalie finds this world precious yet confining. She can’t cuss or screw, but her enormous new shoe closet? It’s sump’n else.
Much of this star vehicle’s success hinges on the casual likability of Wilson’s lead performance. As Natalie, she spends much of the movie mocking rom-com tropes, and her spot-on delivery does much to sell the satire. But damned if the movie doesn’t ease into the foamy bubble bath it pretends to attack. Before we know it, we’re rooting hard for Natalie to get her guy and close out the movie with the same, gushy flourish we’ve seen a thousand other times.
Isn’t It Romantic may be fun and fluffy by nature, but it’s also deceptively smart. The filmmakers know and love When Harry Met Sally and Pretty Woman, and they know we know and love them as well. Romantic comedies remind us that having a sentimental side not only isn’t a sin, but can be nourishing in its own way. While I envy Maltin’s ability to smack down a movie with just one word, I also suspect he would enjoy this movie a lot more than that one. Yes, this one’s romantic, but it’s also a charmingly disarming dose of entertainment.
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