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Believe it or not, I’m a huge fan of Romantic Comedies: cheesy or realistic. The Break Up or About Time, I love them all. That’s why I was sure this film could trigger some genuine laughs from my core, however, the ferocious laughs I presumed I would have were reduced to mere giggles from time to time. Isn’t It Romantic is riddled with potential and a brilliant premise, it’s just a shame that not everything is level in the experience to make for a great comedy or romance.
Todd Strauss-Schulson has been struck once more with the unfortunate circumstance of working with unusual, poor paced writing. It’s similar to how I felt with his horror film with a really unique premise, The Final Girls, but scratch the horror. Isn’t It Romantic is fueled by commendable direction, as Strauss-Schulson has crafted a beautiful world within a Romantic Comedy that goes to the extreme to get its point across. The film is one of a kind and creative. Strauss-Schulson has plenty of scenes where the direction is the key reason why the scene works at all, namely a lovely choreographed musical number at karaoke night. This scene comes out of nowhere and showcases the creativity the man behind the camera possesses, and it’s just a shame that the story couldn’t match the fantastic presentation. While his direction is wonderful, assisted by the writing I’m sure, the final moments of the film appear wasteful - recovered from the falsity of the otherworld, it feels more than a little awkward to go into a full on dance number in the “real” world. Beyond that gripe though, the direction is almost flawless and is a sign of what the director is capable of doing when given a well put-together screenplay.
The story is where the entire film falls apart, taking a premise with some creative backing and spoiling it with rushed character development and awkwardly fast relationships. Rivalries appear on screen only to disappear with little to no explanation, and relationships bloom in a hurried fashion with no montage to bring everything together like a typical Romantic Comedy. Sure, looking at its outer shell, Isn’t It Romantic has the look of a Rom-Com, as it has the parody humor aplenty, but what it suffers from is a lack of well processed writing that resembles anything to the likes of some of the best Rom-Coms that the film goes out of its way to tear down. The first fifteen minutes were an excruciating experience. It felt as though every character shared zero chemistry towards one another and the story was purposely bleak, as well as littered with corny unfocused jokes. Then we are sent into the Romantic Comedy alternate universe, and that’s when Strauss-Schulson worked his magic, but unfortunately not even his direction could elevate the inadequate storytelling. The theme of the story is the typical “believe in yourself, you need to love yourself before anyone can love you back,” and while it’s a solid message, the execution is lacking emotional relevance within the story and the “emotion” fueled climax fails to light any fires.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine reunite for the first time since their time together on Pitch Perfect 2. I grew to have the perception that they had bad blood between the two of them, but I guess that’s been blown out of the water with this film’s arrival. It’s almost as if time hasn’t moved, as the two still retain the exact same amount of chemistry they shared in Pitch Perfect. If you disliked their relationship there, this bond may not be for you. The Romantic Comedy stereotypes are brilliant, with the evil romantic rival, the mischievous love interest, and the over the top gay best friend, all of which are acted the hell out of by Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra, and Brandon Scott Jones. It’s just a shame that the writing can’t match the energy they’re giving off. It’s the little jokes that pull through and make the film a partially pleasant experience. The mainstream comedically structured jokes fail to build any traction. For instance, scenes where Wilson’s Natalie throws things out of windows, the outcome is unexpected and hilarious, but then when she jokes about the size of a characters manhood excessively - it travels down a path of intolerable improv; it’s the smartly thought about unexpected speech and actions that pull their own weight, but the improvisation hardly works in this film - namely from Wilson.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Isn’t It Romantic’s song choices are the obvious ones, but they come at the appropriate times in the storytelling process and this factor brings a smile to my face every time they succeed in parodying this popular genre. Utilizing overused songs from decades of Romantic Comedies, Isn’t It Romantic succeeds with its song selection and overall score from John Debney, as he manipulates the average score we’re used to hearing in a typical Rom-Com and heightening it to new levels of satire. The sound design however isn’t as grand and instead lands at a comfortable surface of mediocrity.
The visuals are stunning, and even one of the absolute greatest things in the film, as mentioned before as a reason why I respect this newer director so much. The transformation between real life and the ROM-COM world is undeniably impressive; from the lack-thereof beauty to the quickly stunning use of makeup to make the people of the fictional world feel extra fake. The sets are great, focusing on providing the most exaggerated version of New York City we’ve seen to date in a Romantic Comedy. Huge praise to the entire team behind the scenes that helped make this world enlivened.
Isn’t It Romantic is an unfortunate misfire that takes an astonishingly creative idea and spoils it with obnoxious acting and poorly written humor. Not even director Strauss-Schulson’s wonderful vision of a world within a Romantic Comedy could elevate the material being presented on screen - though I must admit even bad writing, like it or not, can create a giggle from time to time.