Some movies have the distinct ability to be forgotten as soon as the end credits start rolling. “Isn’t It Romantic?” is one of them. I remember laughing a couple of times and cringing many more, but, for the most part, I remember feeling nothing. I think that’s the best way to describe this film: nothing, a pit of nothingness. And no amount of uncomfortable musical sequences and flashy colors can remedy that. “Isn’t It Romantic?” desperately tries to be both a satire and a comedy, but because it fails to effectively be either, it hardly leaves an impact.
As a lifelong lover of romantic comedies, I was actually quite excited to see the film. Based on its marketing, it seemed that the movie was appealing to people just like me — people who adore the genre and would surely recognize its many references to iconic rom-coms of days gone by. While the movie is certainly aware of its predecessors and actively references them, the references are nowhere near as funny or original as the movie wants them to be. On a strictly nostalgic level, “Isn’t It Romantic?” disappoints.
The premise of “Isn’t It Romantic?” is anything but groundbreaking. Other romantic comedy satires like “Not Another Teen Movie” and “They Came Together,” while also pretty bad, do exactly what “Isn’t It Romantic?” tries to do, but often in much more entertaining and original ways. On top of that, the movie treats its audience as if it isn’t already aware of the countless tropes that plague the genre. The vast majority of rom-com enthusiasts are already well aware of the common cliches (the gay best friend, the mandatory makeover scene, for example). The movie refuses to acknowledge the fact that most rom-com lovers don’t watch rom-coms for their intellectual and artistic merits; rather, rom-coms serve as a source of escapism from the mundanity of daily life. A character in the movie actually makes this exact point early on, but it’s immediately glossed over. “Isn’t It Romantic?” condescends its audience by making the obvious tropes it points out appear newly discovered.
Nevertheless, the movie isn’t completely ineffective, mainly due to its surprisingly wonderful lead performances. This is the most human, most authentic Rebel Wilson (“How To Be Single”) I’ve seen yet. She isn’t defined by her size, as she seems to be in virtually every other film of comparable popularity. “Isn’t It Romantic?” presents Wilson as a fully human being, a woman whose size is a part of her, but not all of her. She’s funny and relatable and real. Her primary love interest, Adam DeVine (“When We First Met”), also does a great job. DeVine, like Wilson, is another victim of type-casting. And while “Isn’t It Romantic?” plays off of DeVine’s signature brand of comedy, it gives him much more to work with. Not only is he funny and a bit eccentric, he’s also introspective, thoughtful and romantic.
Although Wilson and DeVine are more widely known as on-screen lovers in the “Pitch Perfect” franchise, their relationship in “Isn’t It Romantic?” is significantly improved. While their characters in “Pitch Perfect” seem to be coupled together solely because they’re the oddballs of their respective acapella groups, their coupling in this movie actually makes sense. They have palpable chemistry and the personalities of the characters mesh naturally. Their time together on-screen is pretty enjoyable to watch; the problem is that there’s simply not enough of it. Instead, the movie chooses to focus on what it deems to be much more important: endless montages and utterly meaningless dance sequences.
“Isn’t It Romantic?” fails in nearly all respects. It’s not original enough to be a worthwhile satire, and it’s not romantic enough to be on par with the rom-coms it’s mocking. The performances of Wilson and DeVine are simply not enough to save it. I sincerely hope this movie isn’t the one to usher in a new era of romantic comedies. However, if it is, the genre will have become yet another victim to the modern age of nostalgia-obsessed entertainment. In order to recover from this before it’s too late, it’s crucial that filmmakers strive to work against everything this movie stands for and create movies that respect the foundations of the genre while still adding onto the canon in exciting and innovative ways.