© 2009 Ray Wong
Sandra Bullock returns to romantic comedy after a long hiatus since Two Weeks Notice with Hugh Grant. This time, her costar is considerably younger (but just as adorable). The question is, can the amiable star recapture the magic?
Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is the editor-in-chief at Colden Books, a major publisher in New York. She is brash, smart, and ruthless. Her loyal assistant of three years, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) loathes her but he puts up with her to get ahead in his career in publishing (he's an aspiring novelist). When the INS threatens to deport Margaret, who is Canadian, she coerces Andrew to marry her so she can stay in the country and keep her job. Andrew reluctantly accepts the business proposal with the condition that he be promoted to Editor and also his manuscript be published.
Unfortunately, the INS inspector (Denis O'Hare) does not believe them, and he gives them only a few days to prove that their marriage is real, or face severe punishment for fraud. Andrew takes Margaret to his family in Alaska for the weekend, in hopes that they get to know each other enough over the weekend to pass the immigration test.
Once there, Margaret is embraced by Andrew's family including daddy Joe (Craig T. Nelson), mommy Grace (Mary Steenburgen), and 90-year-old granny Annie (Betty White). In fact, the family is so excited about the engagement that they ask the couple to get married, per tradition, at the family barn that same weekend. The couple continues their charade but soon find themselves falling for each other despite the fact that they don't even like each other.
Sandra Bullock (Premonition) gets back to the romcom genre with a vengeance. Sure, she's done plenty of comedies such as Miss Congeniality and romance such as The Lake House, but the American sweetheart, despite being in her mid-40s, is still at the top of her game here. She plays the Ice Queen just as deftly as she does vulnerability. She makes us believe about her uptight character. Ryan Reynolds (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) is charming yet conniving as the shrewd assistant. He's smarter than he looks and an equal match to Margaret. Reynolds tackles the role with good comic timing and charisma without being obnoxious or whimpy. In fact, despite the 12 years age difference between him and Bullock, they display incredible chemistry together. The pair is a joy to watch.
The supporting cast is truly in supporting role and they serve the purpose. Craig T. Nelson (Parenthood) is the obligatory grumpy father, but he shows enough depth that we know he loves his son. Mary Steenburgen (Four Christmases) is radiant as the doting mother who is torn between her husband and son. Betty White (Love N' Dancing) is wonderfully goofy as granny. Denis O'Hare (Duplicity) is smartly smarmy as the INS agent, and Oscar Nuñez (the Office) steals the show as the town's only male exotic dancer.
The Proposal is producer Pete Chiarelli's (Eagle Eye) first script, and it's surprisingly tight. It's also derivative, basically a retold story of Taming of the Shrew. Chiarelli also shamelessly borrows from other romantic comedies such as When Harry Met Sally. Still, I think he's done a good job weaving the tale together and giving us interesting characters and scenarios. The plot does feel contrived and forced, but we willingly go along to see how the characters fall in love (that's pretty much a given for the genre; no surprise there). The strength of the script is the relationship between the two leads and Andrew's family, and the situational humor (there's one funny part involving the family dog).
Director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses) puts together a tight production. The pace is crisp and the humor spot on. New York and Alaska look gorgeous and the film is buoyed by its lighthearted look and feel. The best part of the film, however, belongs to the chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds. They bicker; they scheme; they one-up each other; they eventually fall in love -- it's all believable because the two leads play expertly with each other. There is one particularly naked scene (in a Walt Disney film, no less) that is funny and sexy without being crude.
Granted, there's nothing new about the show and we pretty much know how it's going to unfold and end, and the plot does feel forced at times. However, the production is handsome, the supporting cast is solid, and the two leads are so darned perfect together that it's a proposal worth considering.
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Denis O'Hare, Malin Akerman, Oscar Nuñez
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Pete Chiarelli
Distributor: Walt Disney
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 8
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 7.1 out of 10