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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Isn't It Romantic satirizes romantic comedies, following a woman named Natalie (Rebel Wilson) who gets trapped in a romcom world after suffering a head injury. The content is largely appropriate for teens. Violence is confined to cartoonish interludes in which Nat is struck by a car and hit in the head, both of which are played for laughs. Though Nat is interested in sex and talks about it, all she can do with her suitors is kiss -- after which the camera cuts repeatedly to a morning-after scene with her love interest (Liam Hemsworth) shirtless in a towel. Nat estimates a man's penis size as "pepper grinder" (the kind the waiter has to bring out to you). Characters drink in bars; Nat downs two shots of liquor to get courage to sing karaoke. Characters say "s--t" and "bitch," but all except one instance of "f--k" are drowned out by noise, comically. Stereotyped characters (competitive women, shallow men, a flamboyant gay man) are used to make points about clichéd characterizations in other movies. Mocking the romcom genre's conventions will make viewers consider what such movies tend to say about women and romance and may spark conversations about the way women are depicted. Themes of courage and self-control are also clear.
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What's the story?
ISN'T IT ROMANTIC's Natalie (Rebel Wilson) thinks love is pretty stupid and romantic comedies are even dumber. But when a mysterious head injury traps her in a parallel romcom universe, she's forced to play out the genre's conventions in hopes of escaping back to her own life. All romantic comedies end in true love and a kiss, right? So if she can get gorgeous billionaire Blake (Liam Hemsworth) to fall in love with her, she should be good to go. But although her apartment has suddenly transformed into a luxurious palace and her closet is filled with gorgeous clothes and matching shoes, there are downsides to her new life -- chiefly, that her best friends, Whitney (Betty Gilpin) and Josh (Adam Devine), aren't close to her anymore. Can Nat find her way out of a world that's all surface and no substance, and back into her imperfect but real life?
Is it any good?
Wilson is an absolute hoot in a starring role that makes the most of her quirky talents -- but make no mistake, this takeoff on clichéd romcoms is anything but frivolous and forgettable. Instead, its sharp gags pack a punch, making points about both femininity and oft-reviled "chick flicks" that will resonate with viewers, particularly if they've sat through more than one movie about a beautiful woman who isn't quite whole until the true-love kiss at the end of her story. Nat ticks off the genre's old chestnuts in an early scene: Romantic comedy women wake up in full hair and makeup. They're always tripping over things, which those around them find charming, even though in real life "they'd think she has muscular dystrophy." And most of all, these imperfect cinematic manic pixies need men to complete them.
So when her head injury dumps Nat into a romcom world, she's at first surprised to see her dirty NYC block filled with flower beds and cupcake shops. Her dismissive neighbor has been transformed into a queeny best friend who waits around in Nat's apartment for the moment she needs a cocktail-gossip session or a makeover. And men everywhere flock to her, particularly the hot but jerky Blake, a client who didn't even notice Nat before. Romcoms also end with the main character falling in love -- so surely if Nat can get Blake to declare his love for her, that will bring this bizarre chapter of her life to an end. But, as she soon discovers, Blake's shallow affection is worth far less than Nat's true feelings for herself. She doesn't need a man to round off her life -- she's complete, and wonderful, all on her own. That realization is what will leave her ready to take on the world confidently and on her own terms, including a romantic relationship with a man who's already proved himself her equal.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Natalie learns about confidence, body acceptance, and friendship by the end of Isn't It Romantic. Can you think of other movies that celebrate and empower women and girls? Do most romantic comedies do this? Or the opposite?
A head injury is what leads to Natalie's adventures here. Can you think of other movies in which a head injury gives someone powers or somehow changes his or her life in a magical way? Why do you think filmmakers use this plot device? Is it realistic? Is it a cliché? What happens in real life to people who receive head injuries?
- In theaters: February 13, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: May 21, 2019
- Cast: Rebel Wilson, Priyanka Chopra, Liam Hemsworth
- Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Character Strengths: Courage, Self-control
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language, some sexual material, and a brief drug reference
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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