Here’s a Proposal that Demands Refusal
They only exist in movies: Sham engagements with elaborate bogus weddings, swooping eagles that steal cell phones, immigration officials who travel thousands of miles across North America to investigate one potential law breaker, and 90-year-old grandmas who engage in native Eskimo fire chants.
Each of these impossibly implausible elements might be easier to swallow if “The Proposal” had made good humor out of them. Alas, despite the engaging presence of a solid rom-com actress (Sandra Bullock), and one of the better up and coming young hunky actors (Ryan Reynolds), “The Proposal” is a formula comedy that rarely amuses, much less surprises.
Intuitively we trust Bullock’s likeability and Reynolds’ smarts, and they definitely have some chemistry but those characteristics aren’t developed here and it’s a shame.
While contrived, the opening scenes establishing witchy Boston-based publishing editor Margaret (Bullock) and her beleaguered assistant Andrew (Reynolds) are well paced a pique our interest. When Margaret finds out she is being deported to her native Canada, she quickly concocts a fake betrothal to the unaware Andrew, who decides to play along in the hopes of snagging a promotion. But the pair must convince a government immigration official (Denis O’Hare), as doubting as he is dedicated, so they fly to Tom’s hometown in Alaska for the wedding.
This is where the film goes terribly wrong. Bullock and Reynolds give it their best effort but can’t make up for long stretches of inane, forced comedy and meager attempts to demonstrate how the fire and ice personalities of the couple will gradually melt away and morph into affection. As is usually the case, we know that’s the plan. And even knowing it’s coming doesn’t detract from a well-written and directed romantic comedy.
But “The Proposal” doesn’t earn any of its romantic intentions. One scene, with Margaret lying in bed while Andrew’s lying on the floor, depicts her confessing her self-doubts and imperfections (as well as the reason behind her mysterious tattoo). The scene rings true mainly because of Bullock’s ability to display a convincing vulnerability. Unfortunately, this is one three minute scene in nearly two hour film that includes one of the most uncomfortable (read: unsexy and stupid) strip tease scenes in recent memory.
Even the presence of the normally solid Betty White, Craig T. Nelson, and Mary Steenburgen is pretty much wasted in trite caricature. The much publicized nude scene, when the at-odds couple falls on top of each other while completely undressed (oh sure, that happens) mildly amuses-but not any more than when it was shown in the trailer.
“The Proposal” shares many of the same problems as last year’s “27 Dresses,” which, not surprisingly, was also directed by Anne Fletcher. That film did little to capitalize on the talents of Katherine Heigl and James Marsden. Like Reynolds, that pair’s careers are still works in progress, so they can be forgiven for accepting mediocre material. One would think that an actress as experienced, gifted, and as undeniably beautiful at 40+ years old as Bullock is should have known better. She deserves better material and so do her fans.
The moral: don’t accept a role unless you have read the entire script, Ms. Bullock. Perhaps that’s a more worthwhile proposal.
Rated PG-13 for pervasive sexual content, language and comic violence.