Head trauma has become a trend at the movies.
You know the films: A woman slams her noggin, passes out and awakens to discover she’s a supermodel (“I Feel Pretty”) or that she can hear men’s thoughts (“What Men Want”). I call them head-bangers.
They’re also routinely horrible, aside from the very funny new movie “Isn’t it Romantic,” in which the main character opens her eyes to find she’s the lead in a clichéd romantic comedy. It turns the well-worn device on its, well, yeah.
Rebel Wilson plays Natalie, a New York architect who’s resigned to the banalities of her life: a crummy Queens apartment, gorgeous men around her dating only bombshells and being mistreated at the office by just about everybody.
She especially loathes rom-coms and the blissful existences they present to mislead her kind.
As a kid, her mom (Jennifer Saunders channeling “Dance Moms”) told her if they made a movie about downers like them, “it would be so sad, they’d have to sprinkle the popcorn with Prozac.”
So, after her cranium collides with a subway-station pillar during a mugging, Natalie is dismayed to learn her life has become a drippy romantic comedy. Long Island City now looks like Notting Hill, there are perfectly choreographed karaoke sequences straight out of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and a total sex-pot (Liam Hemsworth) is enamored with her.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson shoves in every rom-com convention you can think of. There are Carrie Bradshaw-style voice-overs, an omnipresent gay best friend and Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” blares constantly overhead. The movie is hysterical and at just under 90 minutes, the gag never wears thin.
Following the well-worn story from lesser head-bangers, Natalie’s perception of reality is altered by an injury, and while figuring out her new surroundings she figures out her life, too. But the writing here has far more wit and liveliness than usual. The characters — like Adam Devine as Natalie’s co-worker with a crush — have charming, believable personalities.
It’s also not a “girl power” movie that strains so hard to push the right message that the end result is tedium.
And Wilson, it turns out, can carry an entire movie on her hilarious shoulders. Best known as Fat Amy from the “Pitch Perfect” series, the Australian actress tends to play the funny friend, always ready with a raunchy punch line or a pratfall while Anna Kendrick gets the tears and struggle. She swaps roles here, but doesn’t mess with her comedy style or clean things up. When Natalie first steps out the hospital, she exclaims in terror, “New York doesn’t smell like s–t anymore!”
But Wilson does manage to dig slightly deeper emotionally than we’ve seen from her before. Her chemistry with Devine, who she’s acted alongside for years, is genuine and touching.
Unlike other movies where women bang their heads, this one’s got a brain.