It’s not a big stretch to say that, even in the movies, when someone gets hit in the head, it’s not a laughing matter. Case in point: Guy Pearce in “Memento” ends up with chronic short-term memory loss. But in Hollywood, that might be where the serious side of things ends. Maybe a smack to the skull CAN be funny. A knock on the noggin was an everyday occurrence for Oliver Hardy and Curly Howard, and they would get over it with a quick grimace. Add some strange result to a bonk on the bean, and you’ve got a recipe for comedy. Cases in point: Amy Schumer, who believes she’s become a slimmed-down version of herself in “I Feel Pretty,” or Tracey Ullman, who turns from a prude to a purveyor of prurience in “A Dirty Shame.”
The well runs a little deeper in “Isn’t It Romantic,” and it approaches the subject in a completely refreshing way: By making fun of it.
Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is a larger-than-whatever-“normal”-is-these-days woman who, due to some long-ago sour advice from her unhappy mom, has grown up believing that love isn’t in her destiny. The wall of low self-esteem that she’s constructed has also gone into her professional life, and though she’s a talented New York City architect with a couple of friends at the office, she allows most co-workers to take advantage of her. She’s not unhappy; she’s just, like her mom, relegated to not expecting anything wonderful ever happening to her.
Then she gets hit in the head while, for good measure, being mugged. When she wakes in a hospital bed, she has the strange experience of seeing someone looking at her with a lot more than a cursory glance ... with real interest. And the person doing it is a hunky doctor. When she’s released, it’s into the suddenly sparklingly clean streets of NYC, where there are flowers on every corner, and happy couples spread about, chatting and staring into each other’s eyes. It gets better. Her shabby, cluttered apartment has changed a gorgeous, spacious condo, and when she checks in at work, she’s suddenly much more appreciated.
One step further: Blake (Liam Hemsworth), the wealthy, nasty, demanding client who previously had nothing good to say about her or her design ideas, is now head-over-heels for her, and asks her out. The only person who hasn’t changed is her work pal Josh (Adam Devine), a geeky fellow who appreciates her friendship. Though he soon meets up with swimsuit model Isabella (Priyanka Chopra), so some change is inevitable.
This might sound like some sort of standard fantasy rom-com, but what elevates it above that and what makes it so much fun to watch is that Natalie doesn’t fall under the spell of any of it. She refuses to come to grips with fountains springing up and people breaking into song and dance all around her in the streets. She freaks out and says she wants to get back to “my dull and ordinary life.”
She thinks she’d be happier if her formerly antisocial, door-slamming neighbor Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) who has magically and hilariously become her gay best friend, would go back to his old ways. She’s convinced that she’s stuck in a cliché-ridden rom-com, and she needs to get out, now.
The film is constructed of witty writing and (Jones excluded) just short of over-the-top acting. There are plenty of visual and verbal jokes, some of them big and brash, others of the little, throwaway variety, almost every one of them perfectly clicking. My favorite had Natalie sitting down in a fancy restaurant, gawking at her entrée, and gushing, “This lobster is the size of a cat!”
There is, of course, an additional bop to the head that returns things to “normal,” with a couple of exorbitant musical numbers thrown in on the way there, and some lessons to be learned among all of those clichés. It’s 90 minutes that are worth sitting through because they’ll make you feel good.
Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at email@example.com.
“Isn’t It Romantic”
Written by Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, Katie Silberman; directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
With Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra