Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 22, 2019)
For a spoof of the rom-com genre, we go to 2019’s Isn’t It Romantic. As a child, Natalie (Alexandra Kis) adores Pretty Woman and allows the film to inspire her own fantasies.
However, her mother (Jennifer Saunders) stomps on those dreams, as she tells Natalie that plain, overweight girls like her don’t get to live out those romances. As a result, adult Natalie (Rebel Wilson) rejects love and she especially hates all the clichés of rom-coms.
When a mugger tries to rob her on a subway platform, Natalie bangs her head against a pole and knocks herself unconscious. When she awakes, she finds herself in an idealized world that offers the distinct scent of a romantic comedy.
Thus Natalie finds herself in a strange environment where absurdly handsome Blake (Liam Hemsworth) immediately falls in love with her and other tropes abound. Natalie needs to figure out how to work her way back to the real world.
Romantic hit screens precisely five days after What Men Want, a film that doesn’t seem terribly similar on first glance. While Romantic brings a “PG-13” parody of rom-coms, Want offers a raunchy “R”-rated look at the battle between the sexes.
However, the two boast a slew of similarities. Both take place under magical circumstances, and both heroines enter the fantasy side of the story due to head injuries.
Other parallels exist, but the most problematic one relates to the promotion of these films. As I complained when I reviewed Want, all its amusing moments showed up in its trailers, and unfortunately, the same goes for Romantic.
At least Want used alternate lines for its promos. Viewers who saw the trailers knew the situations and kind of jokes, but they got fresh dialogue.
No such bonus occurs in Romantic, so audience members will already be aware of all the potentially entertaining bits. With those exhausted, the film can’t find much to add to the equation.
Romantic exists as a “high concept” tale, essentially a parody of rom-coms with something of a Groundhog Day feel attached. No, Natalie doesn’t relive the same day, but ala the 1993 classic’s lead, she needs to figure out the secret way to escape her magical prison.
Groundhog Day did so with wit and cleverness, but Romantic couldn’t clever its way out of a paper bag – at least beyond its basic premise. The way in which the film turns rom-com tropes into literal reality offers promise.
However, as noted, once you see the trailer, you’ve seen all the creative moments you’ll find. With that ammo expended, Romantic takes the easy way out the rest of the time.
This means that a movie that aims to spoof rom-coms instead really becomes a rom-com – and not a very good one at that. Oh, it throws in a minor twist at the end that it steals from Frozen, but otherwise, the film often feels less like a parody and more like a run of the mill romantic comedy.
Honestly, I find it tough to locate anything noteworthy about the film. It comes with a decent cast, though I admit I continue to dislike Adam Devine. He seems less objectionable here than usual, but he just lacks the charm to pull off roles like he should.
As similar as they are, Romantic beats What Men Want in one way: running time. While Want clocked in close to two hours, Romantic wraps in a tidy 88 minutes.
And I thank whatever deity you choose for that, as a two-hour version of Romantic would’ve caused me to consider self-harm. A film without much cleverness, charm or wit, Romantic runs out of steam after a short period of time. It’s a dull, witless affair that falls far short of its goals.