“ISN'T IT ROMANTIC” — 3 stars — Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra; PG-13 (for language, some sexual material and a brief drug reference); in general release; running time: 89 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — “Isn’t it Romantic” is something of a surprise: an enjoyable romantic comedy, hidden inside of a parody of romantic comedies.
Todd Strauss-Schulson’s film follows the adventures of a cynical and loveless architect who finds herself projected into a rom-com version of New York City. The protagonist is Natalie (Rebel Wilson), a wisecracking transplant from Australia who is laboring away in a small New York architecture firm. She’s a gifted architect with her own assistant (Betty Gilpin), but thanks to her scattered personality, most people she meets treat her like she’s only there to pick up the coffee.
Life’s harsh realities have made Natalie bitter, and she has an endless stream of sarcastic one-liners to criticize the romantic comedies her assistant watches on her computer all day, but she’s also blind to the modest advances of her co-worker Josh (Adam Devine).
That all changes when Natalie gets mugged in the subway, hits her head and wakes up in a New York that feels like it was pulled out of something like “Moonstruck” or “You’ve Got Mail.” Suddenly the Big Apple is full of smiling happy couples, bright clean streets and people who look Natalie in the eye when they talk to her.
Realizing she’s been transplanted inside some sort of cosmic romantic comedy world, Natalie immediately sets out to figure her way out of it. But her efforts are complicated by the sudden affections of a hunky hotel developer named Blake (Liam Hemsworth), and Josh’s even more sudden relationship with a swimsuit model/yoga ambassador named Isabella (Priyanka Chopra).
After a fun and clever initial set-up, “Isn’t it Romantic” settles into a plot that may leave you wondering about its destination, especially as the rom-com world jokes take a back seat and the setting feels more and more like Natalie’s everyday world.
But as Natalie tries to plot her way through her predicament, second-guessing the usual life lessons and clichéd outcomes she’s so grown to hate from the likes of “Pretty Woman” and “The Wedding Singer,” “Isn’t it Romantic” actually manages to arrive at a surprising and satisfying conclusion that reaffirms its original purpose.
The result is a witty, lightweight comedy that proves a lot easier to endure for the more suspicious parties during a Valentine’s date night. “Isn’t it Romantic” is surprisingly successful on a few levels — Wilson is fun and relatable, buoyed by a clever script and a solid supporting cast — but none as much as the fact that Strauss-Schulson’s film may appeal to audiences who love and audiences who hate romantic comedies.Comment on this story
“Isn’t it Romantic” pokes fun at rom-coms while also recognizing what makes them so adored, and that perspective is largely what makes the movie work. At different points, it skewers musical montages, clichéd character functions and even the corny narrative shortcuts that keep most such movies in PG-13 territory (while, ironically, affirming its own PG-13 rating).
But jokes aside, the film eventually delivers a message that balances romantic optimism with pragmatic realism. Altogether, “Isn’t it Romantic” might not be the most melodramatic romance, nor the most incisive social commentary, but it balances elements of both qualities in a way that might surprise you.
Rating explained: “Isn’t it Romantic” draws a mid-range PG-13 rating for some comic violence and steady profanity and vulgarity, as well as some suggestive content.