"Isn't it Romantic" is a light little rose petal of a movie that brings out the best in Rebel Wilson. It provides some clever, funny moments, at least until its underwritten characters lose momentum and the script runs out of ideas.
Despite its title, it's not especially romantic. It does, however, offer a delectable premise: The anti-rom-com rom-com.
This romantic comedy is obsessed with deconstructing the done-to-death tropes of other romantic comedies, and for that it wields a sharp sword.
Wilson stars as Natalie. A fairly frumpy architect at a New York City firm, she suffers from a kind of low-grade depression. Put-upon and underappreciated at work, she is unloved and unloving. When her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) tries to perk her up by raving about the wonders of romantic comedies, Natalie goes ballistic.
She is incensed by the absurd fakery of boy gets girl/boy loses girl/boy and girl run into each other's arms in slow motion as the music crescendos. Wake up, ladies. Real life is never like a rom-com.
Whitney disagrees. She wishes she could just live inside the Hallmark Channel. And for that matter, so does another co-worker, Josh (Adam Devine). Not only is Josh a big fan of "Notting Hill" and "13 Going on 30," but he clearly has a thing for Natalie, the signals of which she chooses to ignore.
A switch is flipped one night when Natalie gets mugged in the subway. In the course of fleeing, she bangs her head badly and is knocked out cold. Cut to an alternate universe.
When Natalie awakens, she is stuck in the middle of her personal nightmare: a full-blown romantic comedy. Here is where "Isn't it Romantic" shines. It beautifully sends up all the cliches.
Suddenly, Natalie's hair and makeup are picture perfect. She has a first-class wardrobe and a giant walk-in closet teeming with fabulous shoes. Her drudge of an apartment is now pristine, decorated in vibrant aquas and pinks. The grimy streets of her neighborhood become bright and sunny, with shuttered storefronts replaced by a cutesy cupcake cafe and bridal gown shop. Everywhere there are flowers.
She is also provided with the other necessities of the romantic comedy: An always available gay best friend (Brandon Scott Jones) and a bitchy rival at work (a transformed Whitney, who acquires a "resting murder face").
All that's missing is the super handsome guy to meet-cute and fall for.
He arrives in the person of Blake, played by one of the many-headed hunky Hemsworths (in this case Liam). Blake almost runs Natalie over in his champagne-and-strawberries stocked limousine and is instantly taken with her. Soon they are off on the quintessential dream date aboard his yacht before hopping a helicopter to the Hamptons.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson and his writing team, including Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox and Katie Silberman, have tongues firmly planted in cheeks for this meta spoof. They pepper scenes with sweeping overhead shots of the cityscape and New York Harbor, accompanied by the incessant playing of positive pop tunes.
Meanwhile, in this alternate world, Josh improbably stumbles into a relationship with the gorgeous Isabella (Priyanka Chopra), who doubles as a swimsuit model and yoga ambassador. As their relationship arc collides with Natalie and Blake's, will Natalie recognize what she's really missing in life?
Wilson often plays the comic-relief sidekick. In "Isn't it Romantic," she gets to stretch in a lead role and show that she's capable of much more. She and Devine have shared screen time before, in the "Pitch Perfect" franchise, and he's an appealing actor, though he keeps being typecast as essentially the same lovable, joking goofy guy.
Aimed squarely at Valentine's weekend daters (or maybe girls-night-outers?), "Isn't it Romantic" isn't going to win any awards. But if you like your movies light and fluffy, or just want to gawk at a shirtless Liam Hemsworth, your yacht awaits.
Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.