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The Proposal (A Movie Review)

The Proposal


Starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Denis O’Hare, Malin Akerman, Oscar Nuñez, Aasif Mandvi and Niecy Nash.

Screenplay by Pete Chiarelli.

Directed by Anne Fletcher.

Distributed by Touchstone Pictures. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13.

A movie like The Proposal tends to cause a moral dilemma for a movie reviewer. Should you give it credit for being somewhat better than its clichéd storyline would lead you to expect? Or should you simply point out that even when it is pulled off fairly well, the film is still just a tired bunch of clichés?

I guess in this case I’ll have to do both. The Proposal is better than it could be, but still not as good as it should be. It has some mighty funny parts, but some pretty dumb ones too. 

It makes for a nice light diversion, mostly due to the likability of the stars. Sandra Bullock, in particular, who can do romantic comedies like this in her sleep, but always seems to find new variations to make the most overdone story seem rather fresh.

I also have to apologize to Ryan Reynolds. I have been an avid non-fan for years going back through terrible vehicles like Two Guys A Girl and a Pizza Place, Van Wilder, Smoking Aces, Blade, Waiting and The In-Laws. He had always seemed like a shallow, smug pretty boy to me, without the charisma to make his oily charm bearable.

Therefore, I have to give some credit, the last three films I’ve seen him in – Definitely Maybe, Adventureland and this one – have shown him to be a much more likable actor than I had ever given him credit for being. Particularly the first two – which were a significant step up in quality of material for him – but even in a lesser movie like The Proposal, Reynolds has added a bit of nuance and (frankly) likability to his snarky persona. A bit of humility fits him well.

The story of The Proposal has been done many times – in dozens of sitcoms and most specifically in a mostly-forgotten-and-underrated 90s romantic comedy called Green Card with Gérard Depardieu and Andie McDowell. 

You know the storyline. An immigrant has to marry a US citizen to avoid being deported home, so a couple that knows little about each other and doesn’t get along must convince friends, family and most importantly the government that they are truly in love. Of course, as they work together in the sham relationship, they start to build a real one.

Of course, this is a very light comedy, so the immigrant has to worry about being sent home to… uh, Canada… Not exactly as gripping a conflict as if she were being shipped back to… say, Rwanda or Pakistan… but this storyline is only an excuse for the odd-couple relationship, anyway.

Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a tough-as-nails publishing exec. Reynolds is her secretary Andrew, who appears to have battle fatigue from getting her cleaning and coffee and dealing with Margaret’s constant foul mood. 

It turns out that Margaret was so busy intimidating workers and massaging authors’ egos that she never bothered to update her Visa status. She will be sent back to Canada and lose her dream job in a week if she doesn’t think of something fast. 

Margaret’s brainstorm? Make her hen-pecked assistant marry her. However, for the first time in their relationship, he has some real power, so he decides to use the situation for his own benefit.

Enter the cartoonishly-smug immigration guy who vows to prove that this whole relationship is a scam. So, for the sake of appearances, Margaret has to go with Andrew to his hometown in Alaska to meet his rich, oddball family in their giant nature reserve of an estate. 

Thus begins the fish-out-of-water section of our program – big city executive has to deal with a quirky, Northern Exposure-esque small town and its eccentric citizens. I’m not sure I get why Alaska is supposed to be such alien terrain to Margaret, she grew up in Canada, after all. Even if she lived in a big city like Toronto, she must have had some experience with the Great White North.

The two make for an awkward couple – if you are lying to people that you are getting married for love, is it that much of a reach to actually be able to kiss each other? Still, everyone but his dad and the immigration guy fall for their “love story.” 

Eventually they bond – apparently due to a mutual love of old-school rappers Rob Base and D.J. EZ Rock.

You know where all of this is going. Luckily, the two charismatic leads keep things light and frothy and just this side of entertaining. And entertaining is the only mission that The Proposal really has in its mind. 

Like I said earlier, could have been a lot better, but could have been sooooo much worse.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: October 13, 2009.


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