Remember Scream? The self-aware slasher movie about teenagers who’d seen so many horror movies they could actually predict the clichés they’d run into while being chased by a masked killer. Scream created a tidal wave of “meta” horror movies criticizing genre tropes that we will never recover from. Till this very day, many horror movies feel obligated to offer at least some level of self-awareness, making a point to subvert genre tropes in obvious ways, even if the characters don’t actively mention it. Well, imagine if that tidal wave of “meta” horror movies happened anyway, only Scream awkwardly came out afterward. That’s the dealio with Isn’t It Romantic.
Sexy and the City, 50 years of creepy Woody Allen movies, and almost every protagonist in a rom-com spitting out some version of the line “Life isn’t a romantic comedy” have pretty much covered everything we need to joke about the genre. Isn’t It Romantic picks up some time after those hundreds of movies and follows Rebel Wilson as millennial curmudgeon trapped inside an actual rom-com. Her character has a name but, let’s face it, she’s Rebel Wilson. She wakes up in a world where she keeps tripping over nothing just so handsome strangers can catch her, she can’t have actual sex because the PG-13 movie she’s in keeps cutting away to the morning after, she has to watch what she says or she’ll accidentally trigger a makeover montage and her gay best friend is a stereotype that keeps Evangelicals up at night.
Although the flick has a lot of fun playing with the gay bff’s lack of agency, to the point that he even magically appears from nowhere to give relationship advice, I’m never a huge fan of criticizing a stereotype by starting with the stereotype as the “norm” and peeling it back. It just seems like a KKK member wearing black face and tap dancing on stage, while KKK members in the audiences shake their heads and complain, “Wow, this is so screwed up.” Maybe I’m too harsh on a wacky Rebel Wilson movie, except stuff like this is hard to ignore when the whole movie criticizes sleazy rom-com tropes. Not just the tropes we’re tired of seeing, but also taking down tropes that might have harmful impacts on their viewers.
How is Rebel Wilson, though? Themes aside, the Rebel Wilson movie kind of floats or sinks based on how funny Rebel Wilson is. Well, she’s hilarious. Even if the jokes aren’t all that funny or insightful, her delivery makes them funny. Comedy actors get a lot of crap for playing “themselves” in every movie, and I have no idea why. I went to the Rebel Wilson to see the Rebel Wilson we all know and love, and I got exactly the Rebel Wilson I expected. Yes, she’s playing Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect for the umpteenth time. No, Isn’t It Romantic isn’t as funny as Fat Amy or Pitch Perfect. However, if you come for the Rebel Wilson show, you’ll be happy enough with the one you get. Isn’t It Romantic may be late criticizing a genre that’s already criticized itself more than enough times, but there’s always time for more Rebel Wilson shenanigans.
Grade = C