Battle of the Rom-Coms 2019: What Men Want vs. Isn’t It Romantic?

By: Ruthie LaMay

Have you been avoiding the movie theater crowds of couples this Valentine’s Day? And has this caused you to miss out on the release of the lasted romantic comedies? Well, if this is the case, you’re in luck: I went to see both What Men Want and Isn’t It Romantic. Both of these rom-coms were great in their own way, but if you’re only looking to see one of these two, I’ll compare and contrast how they each handle the rom-com stereotypes and let you decide which wins the Battle of the Rom-Coms 2019.

Let’s start off with What Men Want, a gender-switched remake of the 2000 film What Women Want. Taraji P. Henson stars as lead, Ali Davis, a sports agent who is highly anticipating her promotion to the partner program. When the promotion ends up going to her male coworker, Ali confronts her boss, who tells her she’s no good at connecting with men. Later that night, Ali ends up meeting a psychic, played by an almost unrecognizable Erykah Badu, at her friend’s bachelorette party, who gives her tea to help her connect with men. Then, when the friends end up at a club, Ali hits her head, knocking herself unconscious. When she wakes up, she finds she can hear men’s thoughts and she realizes she can use them to get the promotion she’s been dreaming of.

Next is Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson. Wilson plays Natalie, an architect who is preparing to pitch her idea for a parking garage to a new client. Natalie catches her assistant, Whitney, watching a rom-com at work, she goes on a rant on why she despises romantic comedies. After a day of missing the pitch meeting and being seriously oblivious to her best friend, Josh’s (Adam Devine), romantic advances, Natalie is mugged on the subway and hits her head in her escape. When she awakes, she finds herself in an alternate reality New York and soon discovers that she’s trapped in a romantic comedy. She realizes if she’s going to get out of this nightmare, she’s going to have to find a way to reach the end of the movie.

Tropes

Now, neither of these movies is free from any rom-com stereotypes. In fact, Isn’t It Romantic relies heavily on those tropes to satirize it. So, I would say if you’re looking for a totally innovative, surprising rom-com, neither of these movies would fit those descriptions. Both are pretty predictable, but that doesn’t stop them from being fun and enjoyable. So, let’s get into it and see which rom-com handles the tropes the best.

Independent Female Protagonist

Obviously, both of these movies involved the main protagonist hitting her head and waking up to a supernatural occurrence. However, the two protagonists couldn’t be more different from each other. Ali is strong and independent, but she has problems trusting others since she is always ready to fight, regardless of whether she needs to or not. Natalie is smart and talented, but she can’t assert herself and prefers to live her average life without ever being seen.

Rebel Wilson in “Isn’t It Romantic” and Taraji P. Henson in “What Men Want”

I enjoyed both protagonists, but I liked Ali a little bit more. I think the main difference between the two is that Natalie has to take a journey to love herself, whereas Ali already loves herself. Both messages are important, I just found Ali’s journey a little more compelling, since I find “love yourself” rom-coms, more often than not, pretty eye-roll worthy.

Gay Best Friend

The gay best friend began getting introduced to romantic comedies around the 1980’s, and I think they’re a bit make or break character. No surprise here, both of these movies have the gay best friend in some form or another. Ali has her assistant Brandon, who helps her through her struggles and is the only one who knows she can hear men’s thoughts. In Isn’t It Romantic, Natalie starts off with Whitney and Josh as her best friends, but once she enters her alternate reality, her neighbor, Donny, takes the place of the gay best friend.

Taraji P. Henson and Josh Brener in “What Men Want” and Brandon Scott Jones and Rebel Wilson in “Isn’t It Romantic”

Brandon is pretty realistic approach to the gay best friend: he has a job, a love interest of his own, and also hopes to be promoted to sports agent by Ali. All of these facets make him infinitely better, and much more authentic, than any other gay best friend in other rom-coms. But as I say that, I absolutely have to say Donny wins this head-to-head.

Brandon Scott Jones and Rebel Wilson

Donny was written to be a ridiculous caricature of the typical gay best friend; he has no job, rides around on a red moped, and is the typical femme gay cliché. He also has a way of showing up, like appearing in Natalie’s closet when she calls for his help, or walking by Natalie’s window as she’s packing up to leave. Donny is hands-down my favorite out of the two. Even though I really enjoyed Brandon as a character, Donny was just so over the top and really broke down the trope so well that I have to give this one to Isn’t It Romantic.

Happily Ever After

Without giving too much away about the ends of these movies, they both end in a way that the audience could have guessed. However, I think What Men Want pulled a little bit ahead in this category, just because certain aspects of the ending really did surprise me. But, of course, if you want to know exactly how it ends, you’ll have to go see it to find out.

Rebel Wilson, Adam Devine, and Liam Hemsworth in “Isn’t It Romantic” and Max Greenfield, Taraji P. Henson, and Chris Witaske in “What Men Want”

THE VERDICT

Although What Men Want was preferable to me in terms of how they handled the typical rom-com stereotypes, I would say I would rather watch Isn’t It Romantic again over What Men Want. If you’re looking for a “real” rom-com to watch this February, I would say What Men Want is the clear winner. But, if you’re a lover rom-coms, but you love to make fun of them too, I would say definitely go see Isn’t It Romantic. If you’re more confused about which to see after reading this, go see both! They’re both a ton of fun to go see with your friends or fun date night movies.

Which rom-com do you think is the best of 2019?