Three years on from the terrific Trainwreck, Amy Schumer takes several steps backward with this high-concept comedy that’s content to trot out a series of tired old gags.
She plays an office worker shunned by society for her looks, who suffers a head injury that makes her believe she’s utterly beautiful. And while her character benefits from the new confidence this brings, the potentially progressive conceit is horribly executed.
There’s something missing at its heart that makes the whole endeavour feel slimy. The message of loving oneself without the need for external validation is hammered home, but beneath the mantras, the old Hollywood trope of Fat Equals Funny is key to every gag. We chortle as Schumer dares to enter a bikini contest! Guffaw as her head trauma makes her believe she could be a model! The moral of the story doesn’t ring true when so much of the comedy comes from the notion that someone who looks like Schumer could ever feel satisfied with her appearance.
There are obvious comparisons with 2001 comedy Shallow Hal, an odious mess that featured Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit and women being described as rhinos.
This film doesn’t miss the mark that spectacularly, with the jokes never being quite that cruel. But Schumer is wasted in the lead, and has said far more interesting (and funny) things about body-image in other projects. Equally adrift is prestige actress Michelle Williams, seemingly parachuted in to add a sparkle of class, but given little to work with as Schumer’s boss who happens to have a funny voice.
Like last year’s equally flawed Snatched, I Feel Pretty shows Schumer struggling to match the grit and hilarity of her breakthrough, and, indeed, her real-life interviews. It seems that even one of comedy’s most interesting voices can’t convincingly preach body confidence through the distorted lens of the Hollywood camera.