'Isn't It Romantic': What the Critics Are Saying
The film has received a lukewarm response, though several critics note that Wilson's character is a vibrant and cheeky rom-com heroine.
The first reviews have surfaced for Isn't it Romantic, helmed by director Todd Strauss-Schulson, and they appear to be lukewarm.
Described as a satirical fantasy rom-com, the pic follows a young architect (Rebel Wilson) who finds herself mysteriously trapped in a romantic comedy. The film also stars Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra and Adam Devine.
Isn't it Romantic, which hits theaters Thursday, has received a modest reaction from critics.
The Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden calls the film's concept "inspired," but notes that the screenplay doesn't really know what to do with it. "A meta engine drives the movie, more or less: It's a romantic comedy examining, if not quite dismantling, the mechanics of the romantic comedy," she writes. "For all its winking jabs, this blend of giddy bits and teachable moments eventually follows the same old playbook."
Linden goes on to praise the cinematography and design, as well as the "vividly imagined fantasyland" that Strauss-Schulson created. Ultimately, she was disappointed in the familiar fairytale — however, the critic recognized that a "real person" is at the center of the story.
Kate Erbland from Indiewire noted that the movie "keeps things light and smart," never dipping into darkness or crass jokes." She elaborates to say that the jokes come "fast and furious," all in the time span of an ideal 90-minute run. Erbland writes that the screenplay leans into classic "genre tropes" that are suitable for the narrative.
Concluding her review, Erbland suggests that the pic's final message is "a worthy lesson about love and respect, the kind that both movies and real life could stand to embrace more often."
In The Guardian, Benjamin Lee writes that Isn't it Romantic "avoids some earlier pitfalls of its spoofier predecessors," and notes that a surprising element of the film is "just how much effort is put into the intricate new world." Before Wilson reaches the rom-com world, the colors are "drab, muted and easily recognizable for anyone living in New York," Lee writes, and once she enters the new landscape, everything is "extravagantly designed with bright, vibrant colors." The critics claims that "there's fun to be had here" and gives the movie three out of five stars.
The AV Club's Kate Rife considered Wilson's character depiction in her review: "Wison's body type is an unspoken but essential element of the film's humor — alas, there are a couple of fat jokes at the beginning — and its commentary on cinematic tropes. When she says 'girls like me' don't get special treatment, we know exactly what she means." Rife goes on to note that the rest of the cast fall into the "purely supporting character with no life of their own" category, though in this particular film, the critic recognizes that may have been intentional.
In The New York Times, Ben Kenigsberg appreciated how gags kept Isn't it Romantic "visually lively" and Wilson's performance, but noted it wasn't enough to save the movie. "Wilson, leaning on her comic persona to compensate for the script’s lack of wit or inventiveness, is a reliable deadpanner," he writes. "Her one-liners — calling the alternate universe she’s trapped in 'The Matrix for lonely women,' for example — are funny enough to carry this featherweight movie as far as it can go, which isn’t far." He added that though the setup encourages the pic's screenwriters to send up the worst in cliche, "The film’s reliance on conventions even as it snickers at them gives it the faint air of a con."
The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips withholds from critiquing the movie too harshly, though he suggests it could have gone farther with its comedy. "Isn’t It Romantic gets by, barely, on its apparently inexhaustible comic premise, and on Rebel Wilson’s stand-back-world-get-offa-my-runway comic chops," he notes at the top of his review. Still, its "jokey treatise on the genre’s alluring lies is a 15-minute sketch, taffy-pulled out to 88 minutes," Phillips writes. The critic is most eager to see the film take a different, more interesting direction than a half-critique of rom-coms. Of its occasional music numbers, Phillips writes, "[h]ad Isn’t It Romantic turned into a full-on musical, the contrivances and tired, vaguely patronizing messaging would’ve been easier to ignore."
Over at Time Magazine, Stephanie Zacharek offered a positive take on Isn’t It Romantic, noting the tightrope the film walks between conveying the harsh, unromantic realities of New York and New York as it exists in romantic movies. "The picture is honest about human hopes and disappointments, even as it acknowledges—and offers—the pleasures of a good romantic comedy," she writes. "Sometimes we may feel a little stupid for buying into, even just a little bit, the dreams they put onscreen for us. But who gets through life, or love, without ever feeling stupid?" Zacharek also praises Wilson's performance, calling her a "terrific romantic-comedy hero."
In the Los Angeles Times, Katie Walsh, like others, argues that Isn’t It Romantic only goes halfway in its critique of rom-coms. The film does "tackle the representation of gay men, and the problematic idea that women in the workplace are often enemies in these movies," she notes. "But it doesn’t get at some of the more problematic and frankly creepy behavior by leading men that’s been normalized in rom-coms. The two male leads are harmless here, but there are some missed opportunities to really deconstruct the genre." Still, Walsh finds it "refreshing and radical" that ultimately Wilson's heroine decides to love herself instead of a man, which she calls a "simple but revolutionary notion."