Reviewers disagreed on whether Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds have chemistry or not in their new romantic comedy The Proposal, but said the film highlights their shared knack for picking terrible projects that waste their talents.
In the film, which opens today, Sandra Bullock plays Margaret, a bitchy book editor who is similar to Amanda Priestly in The Devil Prada (or any other female executive in a romantic comedy). When she learns that she's going to be deported to her native Canada, she tells immigration officials that she's engaged to her assistant Andrew, played by Ryan Reynolds. He agrees to go along with the charade, as long as she gives him a promotion. The Taming of the Shrew plot is then combined with the "city girl stranded in the country" formula when Andrew takes Margaret home to Alaska for the 90th birthday party of his wisecracking grandmother, played by Betty White.
Critics said the film was inoffensive, but reminiscent of dozens of other films in the same genre. Naturally, there is a mildly misogynistic tone. Margaret is a successful businesswomen, which of course means she hasn't had sex in two years and needs Ryan Reynolds plus a town full of quirky country folk to teach her to love again. Many reviewers said their romance was unconvincing, but the film's biggest shortcoming was just being bland and forgettable. Below, we check out the reviews for The Proposal.
Starting the film as a borderline caricature of an unpleasant workaholic, Bullock convincingly peels back the layers of Margaret, revealing the pain behind her steely facade and the vulnerability that surfaces as she and Andrew get to know each other better amid the tense masquerade. By midpoint, we're actually rooting for this erstwhile office gargoyle. It helps immeasurably that Bullock has tremendous chemistry with Reynolds. The former TV actor and Van Wilder cutup has been getting a lot of work lately but hasn't quite broken through as a star. The Proposal should remedy that. He matches Bullock's comic timing note for note and conveys all of Andrew's frustration, exasperation and growing attraction to Margaret. (His remarkably fit physique also is a boxoffice plus.) The situations might be formulaic, but the teamwork of the two leads brings them to sparkling life.
Just looking at the poster for The Proposal, a by-the-numbers romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, tells you exactly how it's all gonna go down... It's as predictable and comforting as a Happy Meal, but it must be said that The Proposal manages to elicit some genuinely amusing moments, especially when it comes to physical comedy. Director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses) started out as a choreographer, and that's still where she shines, in early sequences where an entire office staff collectively shudders in horror when Bullock's character makes her scary way past their desks, and later in a preposterously staged two-way naked body-slam. Reynolds and Bullock don't generate much chemistry, but both can be thanked for bringing restraint to otherwise thankless roles.
Like most Hollywood romantic comedies these days, The Proposal is all about bringing a woman to her knees, quite literally in this case. The simple premise is partly telegraphed in the advertising tag line, "Here comes the bribe," which evokes wedding bells and desperation...You know the rest because you've seen (and read) it many times before. After nestling in the bountiful bosom of family and some unexpected naked slapstick with Andrew, Margaret melts. He mans the ramparts, she lowers her defenses. He thrusts, she parries. He chops wood and loses his shirt. She loses her cellphone and ditches the heels. He rescues her, scooping her out of the water after she falls from a boat. She shivers and smiles and tears up as she talks about her tragic past, revealing the sad little girl who's long been hidden behind the cruel disguise of a sensationally successful professional adult. Ding-dong the witch is soon dead and in her place, well, here comes the bride.
The cast isn't populated by heavyweights. It has been a while since Sandra Bullock has been in the fast lane, and it's been about a decade since she was a prime romantic comedy actress. Ryan Reynolds, who showed flashes of genuine talent in Adventureland, is back to phoning it in. (Although, to be fair, his flummoxed expression when Andrew "learns" he's engaged to Margaret - which carries through more than one scene - is possibly the film's funniest element.) Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson are playing the stereotyped father/mother roles, and Betty White is pretty much exhuming her Golden Girls character. (This is not one of those roles in which she drops a string of f-bombs and other assorted profanities - something she has done on more than one occasion to get a cheap guffaw.)
The Proposal, in fact, appears to have been written using a secret cache of computers stored beneath Walt Disney HQ since 1978-codename "Pete Chiarelli," the first-time screenwriter who receives credit for having pilfered every rom-com convention since the invention of breathing. (It was directed by Anne Fletcher, who stitched together 27 Dresses out of the leftover scraps not used here.) Or, perhaps, it's the product of a book of MadLibs in which spaces are left blank for The Handsome Male Ingénue Specializing in Cocked Eyebrows, The Former Rom-Com It-Girl on Comeback Trail Who Looks 10 Years Younger Than Her Age, and The Ex–Golden Girl as Dirty-Minded Grandmother.
What do you do when your movie is all premise and no pop? Try harder. Or at least that's the tack taken by The Proposal, a romantic comedy that yokes Sandra Bullock to Ryan Reynolds as a sham couple, then tries to compensate for the absence of chemistry by keeping them busybusybusy with random subplots and comic business. Look, there's Oscar Nuñez from The Office, stripping! And Betty White doing a tribal dance! And Craig T. Nelson grimacing paternally! And an eagle chasing a puppy!
"The Proposal" reworks Two Weeks Notice with the genders switched. Bullock's Margaret Tate is known as "it," not "her," around her publishing house full of ninnies and bowers and scrapers. Assistant Andrew (Reynolds) loathes her ways, her cutting, soulless but well-preserved ways. (I don't want to get into the whole plastic surgery question, but I did prefer Bullock's previous look, the one that looked a little less like someone wearing a Sandra Bullock mask.)
it could have done without the serial misuse of The Office's Oscar Nuñez as Ramon, a waiter/exotic dancer/store manager/minister who ups the yuck factor with the world's most revolting striptease. He accounts for most of the script's worst cliches. The rest are mild enough, including one pallid joke about the leading lady's age. Bullock has 12 years on Reynolds, the actual Canadian in the group.
A romantic comedy doesn't need to be original to be enjoyable, and yet The Proposal still falls way too short of the mark. Its appeal rests on how much we can bring ourselves to love Bullock: She can be an extremely appealing actress... and at worst she's just sort of vaguely inoffensive. It's probably possible to actively dislike Sandra Bullock, but she gives off such an approachable, nice-girl vibe that it barely seems worth the effort. There's a degree of warmth in The Proposal; there just isn't enough crackle, particularly between the two stars. Reynolds, whom I'd pegged as a dull, flavorless actor until I saw his nicely shaded performance in Greg Mottola's recent Adventureland actually gives a better performance here than Bullock does.
Individually, his sarcasm can be amusing, and her straining for comedy is occasionally funny. In The Proposal, neither brings out anything good in the other, and watching them try hurts the eyes, the tummy, and the libido. The nature of the genre, regardless of how it begins, ends with both parties in each other's arms. And while I watched these two sets of lips (one set being a little fuller than I recall) head for collision, I prayed the movie might fall off the assembly line and jostle loose the dreaded oncoming event. I've rarely been less lucky. What is the opposite of fireworks? When two people kiss, can firing squads go off?
If every relationship is built on shared interests, it's easy to see why Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds would pair off. After all, they have at least two major things in common: they're both unusually likable leading actors, and they both have unusually awful taste in movies. Reynolds, at least, has finally started heading in the right direction after years of choosing scripts painfully beneath him. So it would have been nice if these two had found something worthy of their combined talents. Instead, their mutual inclination towards synthetic Hollywood junk just drags them down together.