Putting Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in a movie together was a good idea. They have great screen chemistry, they are both quite charming, and they can both get some good laughs, even with meager material. Hopefully, The Proposal won’t be the only time they share the screen, because the movie isn’t half as good as the stars who occupy it.
I was enjoying this film quite thoroughly, but then Betty White showed up in the forest doing some Alaskan tribal dance, and things went south. Until this awkward and stupid scene, I was sort of under this film’s sweet, gooey spell. Too bad it lost its way.
Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a big time player at a big city book publishing company and boss to Andrew Paxton (Reynolds). Andrew endures all sorts of job humiliation in hopes that he will one day become an editor. Margaret specializes in condescending tones and ruining his weekends with overtime. It’s fair to assume Andrew hates Margaret.
When it’s discovered that Margaret, a Canadian, has an elapsed work visa, deportation is imminent. On the spot, Margaret comes up with a big lie: She and Andrew have been conducting a secret relationship, and they are engaged to be married. In order to avoid Margaret getting shipped back to Canada and prevent Andrew from losing his job, the two must masquerade and tie the knot, and do it in a convincing manner. A snotty immigration agent (Denis O’Hare) is keeping an eye on them and would like nothing better than to catch them in their lie.
One thing leads to another, and the two find themselves on a plane to Alaska for a visit with Andrew’s cookie-cutter family. There’s the grouchy and unloving father (Craig T. Nelson) who wants Andrew to knock it off with the literary pipe dream and take over the family business. There’s the too-sweet-for-words mom (the impossibly beautiful Mary Steenburgen) who just wants her little boy to be happy. And then there’s the kooky grandmother (87-year-old White) who feels up Margaret’s breasts.
Sure, the premise is ridiculous, but Bullock and Reynolds really do make it work until Pete Chiarelli’s script and Anne Fletcher’s direction get fatally goofy at the three-quarters mark. The duo is quite funny when they are at odds and basically hating each other. When they go predictably soft on one another, it’s like a torpedo in the side of an already unsteady ship.
And say all you want about how funny Betty White is in her late 80s. I thought her part in this film was atrociously written and an insult to her talents. Her dance scene with Bullock in the forest is embarrassing, and that’s just the primer for a horrendously staged heart attack moment.
But I do have to give props to those responsible for the personal training of Reynolds and Bullock. They have a comical, almost nude scene together that certainly displays something is going awfully right for these two at the gym. Members of all genders and sexual orientations will be mighty pleased by the visuals. And kudos to Bullock, who is 12 years older than Reynolds and totally convincing as his love interest. In Hollywood, it’s usually the men getting to mess around with younger women.
Reynolds has a talent for making bad movies almost tolerable. His “deer in the headlights” shtick is a nice companion piece to Bullock’s nasty boss. And Bullock is very good at showing the vulnerable side of Margaret. They are actually a cute movie couple, and I found myself rooting for their inevitable get together.
Too bad things get moronic on top of being predictable. Bullock and Reynolds are much better than, say, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, but their material is just as bad. Put them in a film with a slightly bigger brain, and you might have something.