Canadian book agent Margaret Tate (Bullock) cajoles her assistant Andrew (Reynolds) into marrying her in order to maintain her visa status and sidestep deportation from the US. In order to fool the authorities, the pair take off to Paxtons parents in Ala
The Proposal sees Sandra Annette Bullock return to her romantic comedy wheelhouse for the first time since 2002’s Two Weeks Notice (Miss Congeniality 2 was hardly romantic and barely a comedy). Add Ryan Rodney Reynolds (lest we forget, an actual Canadian), perhaps the best modern male rom-com lead, as her foil and this should have walked it up the aisle. Sadly, The Proposal jilts any notion of freshness at the altar of cliché.
Saddled with a premise — a guy and a gal pose as a couple to earn an immigration visa — that has had its passport stamped up the wazoo, Bullock and Reynolds try their darnedest with a hole host of well worn scenarios. There is the Improvising The Story Of How They Met riff, the Faking A Passionate Kiss In Front Of Friends And Family ruse, and the Stumbling Into Each Other Stark Bollock Naked gambit. Bullock also gets lumbered with two more familiar comedy tropes, a bitch boss from hell (we’re asked to believe that Sandra Bullock is Dom DeLillo’s literary agent!) in early scenes transmuting into the city slicker out of water in the rural countryside. It is testament to the skill and likeability of both Bullock and Reynolds that the tired staples and hackneyed farce nearly work.
But not even a gifted comedienne like Bullock can help the bizarre set pieces that shoot for something original. The Proposal must be the first rom-com to try and wring laughs out of its heroine coming under attack from a bird of prey. Even stranger is the sequence in which Bullock is encouraged to engage in bizarre bumpkin rituals encouraged by Reynolds’ grandma (White) and turns it into unfunny New Age booty shaking.
Away from the central couple, there is interesting support. Dennis O’Hare has fun with his quirky, nit-picky INS agent hellbent on splitting the couple up, Malin Ackerman is wasted as Paxton’s college sweetheart, and Oscar Nunez steals scenes as the seemingly only employee in the one-horse town. Yet director Mitchell, who did much better work with Katherine Heigl and James Marsden on 27 Dresses, never nails a tone. Even in its own romantic comedy milieu, you never believe the characters or their predicaments. There is a scene where Margaret and Andrew slowly begin to open up to each other during a conversation about first concerts and ‘80s rap. It feels real and moving, two people connecting, but time and again it forsakes such reality for speedboat pratfalls and last minute dashes to the airport.
Despite good moments and likable leads, this lacks both heart and humour in a confection that smacks of the over-familiar.