Director: Anne Fletcher
Notable Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Malin Akerman, Oscar Nunez
Probably the biggest misconception with romantic comedies (“chick flicks”) is that they need a hunky male to be an enticing morsel for female viewers. If this is true, then explain the period that saw Hugh Grant getting the likes of Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock? It seems his time as being eye candy bait (shivers) for ladies has since passed. Though Bullock, his co-star from Two Weeks Notice, proves with The Proposal that you’re never too old to have one last fling.
Unfortunately, the comedy sticks with what has worked in the past, offering no fresh ideas to an already stale rom-com formula. Sometimes this is all a certain audience wants in a comedy: recognizable stars and happily ever after endings. Others desire relationship growth. The script is awash in sitcom contrivances, and the dramatic tones are inexplicable. Usually this is forgivable if you believe the romance that is unfolding onscreen. If you can feel that the characters are truly falling for each other, the greater the comedy is as a whole.
The story involves Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) and her dutiful assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), traveling to Alaska so he can introduce his new fiancé to his family. But here’s the rub: it’s a blackmailed engagement. Margaret, the head editor of a northeast publishing house, gets word that she’s about to be deported back to Canada because her green card application has been rejected. Chalk it up to her negligence or malfeasance; she’s a coldhearted witch, and the cubicle office drones fear her. For Margaret to keep her job and remain in the U.S. she needs to get engaged and obtain a fiancé VISA. This is where Andrew and blackmail come into play. Wary of this couple’s “green card marriage” is Mr. Gilbertson (Denis O’Hare), the U.S. immigration official in charge of making sure everything’s legit. He plans to ask them questions about their history as a couple, authenticating the engagement’s legitimacy. So Margaret and Andrew have three days to learn about one another, all the while rooming at his parents’ (Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson) house in Alaska.
The thing with romantic comedies is that there’s a 99.9% chance that the female and male leads will fall in love. It’s as inevitable as the twist in a M. Night Shyamalan film: You know it’s coming. The trailer proves this much, pinpointing the exact moment where a spark is felt between Margaret and Andrew. Actually, the trailer further exposes the comical hijinks giving away most of the laughs.
Fortunately the opening act gets things off to a good start. Even with clunky dialogue you start to see a chemistry develop between Reynolds and Bullock. He’s the Dapper Dan to her Cruella De Vil. In comedy timing is everything. The give-and-take relationship that they have in the workplace is perfected by Reynolds’ sardonic wit.
Anne Fletcher, who directed last year’s rom-com box-office surprise 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl, again helms another contrived story that goes the extra mile in foreshadowing events you know that are bound to happen. The script also utilizes a subplot that puts the brakes on a comedy that should be moving at crackerjack speed. It involves Craig T. Nelson trying to convince his son to return home to Alaska and take over the family business. I was half expecting Reynolds to quote Varsity Blues and tell his pop, “I don’t want your life!”
The Proposal is amusing at times, but the lazy writing and tired plot kill most of the laughter. The only genuine moment is a short nighttime scene where Bullock and Reynolds start to connect, sharing little facts about themselves. Then Reynolds’ charisma goes into overdrive and he busts out a rendition of “It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right.” Had the rest of the film been as earnest, The Proposal would have been a winner.
Good romantic comedies are hard to come by these days. I’d suggest passing on this one and seek out a little-seen comedy Ryan Reynolds did last year called Definitely, Maybe. Or, if you want to see the masters of romantic comedy at work, go with one-two offering of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):
Tags: romance, Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock