What more appropriate day to see this movie than at its theatrical debut on Valentine’s Day? Isn’t It Romantic is the latest in the alternate reality genre wherein dwell Big, 13 Going on 30 and even It’s a Wonderful Life. It shares a key plot line popularized in 2001’s Shallow Hal, another movie with a message about body shaming and love. In fact, this film is something of a cross between Shallow Hal and When Harry Met Sally.
What Men Want, currently in theaters, and the upcoming Yesterday also begin with a physical trauma. I can only guess that the success of other scripts has led us to a plethora of movies that use this device, unless there was a recent lazy writers’ seminar on the use of an injury to launch a story into another universe. This is no Matrix.
Unlike I Feel Pretty, in which Amy Schumer’s head trauma leads her to be alone with the illusion of her own extreme beauty, Isn’t It Romantic reverses the paradigm, leaving Rebel Wilson mystified that others see her as a great beauty, living her life in a similarly beautified and sanitized New York neighborhood.
What we have here is a parody of a romantic comedy wrapped in a romantic comedy, and it works quite well. Early in the film there is an unfortunately necessary recitation by Rebel Wilson’s character, Natalie, of the lame, predictable events that occur within romantic comedies, on the chance that the audience has not seen their share of this genre. Let’s consider it a reminder, or foreshadowing. We then see those events acted out in glaring fashion after Natalie’s concussion thrusts her into a PG-rated version of her own life. She can’t even drop an F-bomb without a truck horn bleeping over her utterance.
Now comes the difficult portion of this review, the elephant in the room, which is an unfortunate metaphor in this case. You see, Rebel Wilson is making a career of being the latest large woman on the silver screen. In the style of John Candy, Chris Farley and other male comedians before her, and even Melissa McCarthy and the honest-bodied Amy Schumer, she seems prone to physical comedy about her size. At 5 foot three, she is morbidly obese on any ideal weight chart, and is unapologetically leveraging that attribute to her advantage as she did in Bridesmaids,the Pitch Perfect trilogy and 2019’s The Hustle. Sadly, her character in the Pitch series is known as Fat Amy.
In fact, she is very funny and quite beautiful, or shall we characterize her as “beguiling” as co-star Liam Hemsworth continuously describes her throughout the film’s lengthy dream sequence. It’s hard not to confuse this Hemsworth with his brother Chris, a beefed up version of the Hemsworth good looks dynasty that won him the part of Thor we are all now familiar with. Older brother Luke is also an actor in a litter of blue-eyed stallions.
Adam Devine, the endearing but dorky wannabe boyfriend of daughter Haley in TV’s Modern Family is perfectly cast as Natalie’s friend Josh, true-blue in any universe. He appears destined throughout the film to be Natalie’s rightful boyfriend, and perhaps the frog who would be prince. But here’s another twist, and ultimately the movie’s real message. Natalie needs to learn to love herself, a lesson that takes the full hour and a half to be revealed. Only then can she come out of her coma and accept Josh as something other than a friend and coworker.
This is a feel good movie that bends and shapes several underlying well-worn premises in a fun and engaging trip that is worth the price of admission. There are even a few fun music and dance sequences. You come out of the theater feeling thoroughly entertained and that you’ve also learned a couple of things along the way.
Isn’t It Romantic runs 1 hour, 28 minutes and is rated PG-13