The Proposal (***)

the-proposalI won’t lie. It’s hard for me to give “The Proposal,” the new romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, a bad review. In fact, it’s not even hard – it’s impossible. We’re not talking Oscars here, by any means, but I think thus far the movie is getting a raw deal from some cantankerous critics. As of this writing, the movie sits at 53% fresh on Rotten, but I think anyone giving a bad review is a heartless curmudgeon who’s been flipped the bird and spat in the face by love. I enjoyed “The Proposal” from start to finish. I laughed heartily throughout the entire film – chuckled and guffawed, even. I also liked the movie because I have a mancrush on Ryan Reynolds.

No, don’t go back and read that sentence again. That’s no typo. That’s one word: mancrush.

Frankly, it’s a fairly simple concept to grasp: Crushes are when you have a hankering to connect with a lady; mancrushes are when you wish you were another dude. Keyword being dude. That means you’d never have a mancrush on Kim Jong-il, Ryan Seacrest or Glen Beck.

So why Reynolds? Easy. Because he’s married to uber-hottie Scarlett Johansson, has ripped abs, and can destroy you with his razor-sharp sense of humor and superhero karate skills, all the while proudly declaring his metrosexuality and daring you to fight him. Yeah, I wanna be that dude. That, my friends, is a mancrush. Agree or disagree, I don’t much care, just be sure to get your own, like Orin Hatch, Kobe Bryant, or that guy off the ShamWow commercials.

I have “The Proposal” listed as a “maybe” on my 2009 Summer Movie guide and that might be one reason I’m giving it such high marks. It was a nice surprise and is leading a little sneak attack into theaters this weekend before the Autobots and Decepticons take center stage next week. Which reminds me, don’t even get me started on movie marketing and release dates. “The Proposal” should have been in theaters in April or early May, not sandwiched between big-budget movies in the middle of June.

Let's hear it for America's Sweethearts!
Let's hear it for America's Sweethearts!

Another reason I had this on my “maybe” list was the film’s trailer, while spotted with humorous bits, left me believing I probably had just witnessed all the funny parts in the movie. That seems to be the case with most romantic comedies nowadays. And while there is some cut-and-paste, predictable portions to “The Proposal,” what gives it energy and life is the chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds. His sarcasm, facial expressions and delivery never get old, and Bullock is in perfect form. She reminds me of Lucille Ball with her ability to balance her comedy between equal parts vinegar and sweetness, as well as her innate gift for physical wackiness that has been a staple of her repertoire since she broke into Hollywood with “Speed” in 1994 and peaked with “Miss Congeniality” in 2000. She is the girl next door and at 45 she is still adorable. I just want to hug her and pinch her cheeks.

In “The Proposal,” Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) is a young New Yorker looking to make it as an editor in the fast-paced, seemingly vicious realm of publishing. Despite working hard at his company for three years, Andrew hasn’t budged from his current station and standing, the personal assistant to big wig editor Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock). Margaret is beast. She is closed-off, never wears a smile and thinks about her job 24/7. This makes her snippy, feisty and constantly on the warpath. Her presence at the office is dreaded so greatly by her employees and her arrival is heralded by a deluge of instant and text messages declaring the “witch is on her broom.”

Despite her success and prestige, Margaret has a slight problem – her visa has expired and she’s about to get deported back to Canada. Unwillingly to give up control to any of her underlings, she announces that she and her assistant Andrew are getting married. Andrew is dumbfounded, Margaret’s bosses look skeptical, and the immigration official they meet with soon after is even more unconvinced. He’s certain Margaret has set Andrew up and threatens both with jail.

Betty White gropes Sandra Bullock's "easter eggs."
Betty White gropes Sandra Bullock's "easter eggs."

At any rate, Andrew sees this as an opportunity to finally get – albeit via tit-for-tat blackmail – what he’s always wanted: a position as editor at the publisher. Margaret agrees and the couple fly back to Alaska to spend the weekend with Andrew’s parents, Grace (Mary Steenburgen) and Joe (Craig T. Nelson), and also to celebrate Grandma Annie’s (Betty White) 90th birthday. This is where the film really takes off and where the chemistry between Reynolds and Bullock is fully visible. Predictably, the faux couple has to put on a good show for friends and family, while also getting to know each other better, letting their guards down and discovering they might actually legitimately like each other. And that’s about it, as far as plot and story goes. But as I said before, this is a romantic comedy fueled by chemistry, not by some literary stroke of brilliance. In fact, it’s not just Reynolds and Bullock who mesh nicely in “The Proposal.” Betty White, Craig T. Nelson and the loveable Mary Steenburgen play their roles and fit nicely into the camaraderie developed between the leads.

“The Proposal” is a nice date flick both men and women should find entertaining. The PG-13 is definitely earned, especially for an oh-so-close extended near nude scene midway through the movie, so I’d keep the kids at home. If you can’t find a babysitter, may I make a recommendation – don’t go. Taking kids to inappropriate movies is high on my list of movie pet peeves and will get you deported to North Korea.

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