June 18, 2009

The Proposal

Beg all you want, but I'm not dropping a rumor
with Perez Hilton that we're dating

Grade: C –

Director: Anne Fletcher

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, and Betty White

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Sandra Bullock remains a bankable headliner, thanks mainly to the extraordinary mid-1990s one-two box-office punch that established her as both a female action star (Speed) and rom-com princess (While You Were Sleeping). Toss in signs of Bullock’s untapped dramatic acting chops – her underwritten role in Paul Haggis’ Crash and satisfying rendering of Nelle Harper Lee in Infamous – and you have the potential for one of the most successful, well-rounded careers in recent Hollywood history.

Vexingly, the rest of Bullock filmography is littered with toothless thrillers, calamitous comedies, and wretched romances. For perverse fun, submit your choice for the site of professional ground zero: The Net, Two If by Sea, Hope Floats, or, most lamentably, Speed 2: Cruise Control? Now comes The Proposal, an instantly forgettable entry that aspires to hitch itself to the lineage of Howard Hawks’ screwball comedies or the Rock Hudson-Doris Day 1960s romps. Unfortunately, it is merely another generic trifle that follows the romantic-comedy playbook page by formulaic page.

Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a successful, ball-busting publishing house editor-in-chief who, in the first of many contrivances crippling the plot, finds herself facing deportation back to her native Canada. So, she shanghais her doting executive assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), into marrying her so she can keep her green card. Weary of his boss’ abusive management style, Andrews immediately pivots toward opportunism, offering to go along with Margaret’s charade as long as she agrees to promote him to an editor position and, apparently, now put up with him acting like a jerk. No word on how they plan to square this patent nepotism with the HR department, but let’s not troubles ourselves with reality, shall we?

With a skeptical immigration investigator (Denis O’Hare, misused) on the case, Margaret must maintain the mirage by traveling with Andrew to his hometown of Sitka, Alaska for the weekend to celebrate his grandmother’s 90th birthday. Doubling for Sitka, the quaint waterfront town of Rockport, Massachusetts is charmingly picturesque. Sadly, things go awry when we venture to the Paxton family island compound, where Andrew’s unintentionally deranged family spends the weekend barraging unannounced into the couple’s boudoir, frequenting the local jerkwater strip club, and pressuring Margaret and Andrew into exchanging nuptials on one day’s notice in the family barn.

The fatal flaw in this already bland story is that we are left without an essential rooting interest. Not ice queen Margaret, not self-centered Andrew, and certainly not the dysfunction and geriatric humor offered by the Paxton clan.

Director Anne Fletcher has no excuses: This is her third dud in a row, following Step Up and last year’s 27 Dresses. Here, she fills the copious dead spots with insipid filler, the most egregious being an odd scene in which Grandma (Betty White) chats and prances around the woods wearing native garb while Margaret shakes her groove thing. But, I am willing to give screenwriter Pete Chiarelli a pass since he was clearly contaminated by the infectious taint of coproducers (and typical script-killers) Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. So, by film’s end, we are forced to endure a wedding scene, a chase through the airport, AND a confession of love that feels as authentic as an episode of The Hills.

What barely sustains the film is the chemistry of Bullock and Reynolds, actors separated in age by 12 years who share exquisite comic timing. Their quick-witted adlibs and pratfalls deserve a better vehicle. As it stands, The Proposal will have you clamoring for a quickie divorce.

Neil Morris

1 comment:

bowler said...

the Proposal made me want to move to Alaska, the scenery was fabulous