The Proposal **½
2009 is turning out to be a great year for Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Not only did the duo write two of the summer’s biggest blockbusters (Star Trek and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) but they have also produced The Proposal, a film which is fast becoming one of the surprise sleeper hits of the summer, having already been a huge success at the US box office. Of course the film’s success is not really attributable to them but rather its stars with the casting of Sandra Bullock, in her first romantic comedy role in quite some time, and Ryan Reynolds who, following a role in this summer’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the announcement that he is to be the lead in upcoming superhero movie Green Lantern, is now officially one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, making for a film that has plenty of box office appeal. Of course, though, box office success doesn’t always reflect quality so will you say yes to this proposal or this one film that is going to be left standing alone at the altar?
When high-powered book editor Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) faces deportation to her native Canada, the quick-thinking exec declares that she’s actually engaged to her unsuspecting put-upon assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), who she’s tormented for years. He agrees to participate in the charade, but with a few conditions of his own. The unlikely couple heads to Alaska to meet his quirky parents Joe (Craig T. Nelson) and Grace (Mary Steenburgen) and grandmother Annie (Betty White) and the always-in-control city girl finds herself in one comedic fish-out-of-water situation after another. With an impromptu wedding in the works and an immigration official on their tails, Margaret and Andrew reluctantly vow to stick to the plan despite the precarious consequences. However, as they spend time together over the long weekend they learn things they never knew about each other and it soon transpires that they may actually share real feelings for each other.
As romantic comedies go The Proposal has shown more potential than most. Director Anne Fletcher previously helmed such enjoyable romances at Step Up and 27 Dresses, Sandra Bullock has always been very likable in romantic roles and Ryan Reynolds has also proven himself to be very capable as a romantic lead, as evidenced in Definitely, Maybe. However, despite all this potential The Proposal never quite takes off. Maybe it is just me – after all many of the other people at the screening I attended seemed to love the film – but everything came across as being very by-the-numbers and not all that entertaining. Obviously I can’t speak for the other members of the audience so I can only give you my opinion and that is that this is a film that is rather lacking in laugh out loud moments, although there a few, although several gags are clearly aimed squarely at the ladies so I might not be the right person to comment. The storyline is also extremely predictable, although this is expected of many romcoms nowadays, but unlike many other romcoms, particularly Anne Fletcher’s previous films, there really isn’t that much charm to anything that happens either. There are several reasons for this, firstly that for the most part there really isn’t much romance actually going on. More importantly, however, is the fact that the romance just isn’t convincing. Despite good performances from both the leads (Sandra Bullock is suitably overbearing as the boss but gradually humanises as the film progresses, and Ryan Reynolds is suitably cast as the long suffering assistant, being quite charismatic in the role) there just isn’t a good enough chemistry to really make us care about the relationship or believe in it as it develops. This is really because the characters just don’t fit together, a reflection on the way in they have been written and the way they are developed. If we can’t believe in the romance we can’t care about it and if we can’t care about it the heart of the film is missing, a major problem for a romantic comedy. The film is extremely hit and miss in other areas too with a very promising cast being wasted, with the likes of Craig T. Nelson and Malin Akerman having largely redundant roles to play. Betty White, as the grandmother of Reynolds’ character, however, is very amusing. All in all, The Proposal is a film that fails to live up to its promise. It does have its moments but if you want to see a truly memorable romcom I doubt you will find it here (although, I do suspect that female viewers will be far more receptive to it). So, this is one proposal you may say yes to but I wouldn’t count on a long lasting marriage.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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