"Borrowing heavily from mediocrity is no way to handle business, but that's clearly what transpired here."
Sloppy, rushed, and typical. These are the words that come to mind after watching The Proposal, the latest fish-out-of-water romantic comedy to come floating on down the river. The setup is typical, the archetypes are industry standard (a foul-mouthed Betty White? Hysterical!), and the resolve could have been written by a fifth grade class fresh from watching Pretty Woman. Although why you'd have a bunch of 11-year-olds cranking out screenplays is beyond me. That's pretty strange of you.
Let's dole out some praise right off the bat just to throw people. I really like Ryan Reynolds. I also appreciate Sandra Bullock in a more general sense. I'm not morally opposed to either of them, and at times they elevate the material to a place that's actually funny. I'll admit I laughed at least half a dozen times, and if you're simply looking for a 90-minute escape this will do fine. But I'm judging for the ages around here, and The Proposal is not the sort of work one wants to reward with a good grade. For the record, a prior Reynolds' work, Definitely, Maybe is way more interesting and worthy of praise. Give that one a rental if you've made it this far.
If you've seen the trailer then you know the basic plot structure: Bullock is a hard-charging literary agent and Reynolds is her executive assistant. The opening 10 minutes of the film give a pretty good indication as to why the book publishing industry is failing, and we're to understand that Bullock is one tough cookie while Reynolds is a sweet (but loyal) pushover. Boom! Enter the dilemma, the reason for the film to exist -- the crazy kids have to get married or Bullock will be deported and all of R.R.'s hard work will have been for naught. The lovely faux couple is then whisked off to Alaska to complete the comedic effect, as the sort of hilarity that's about to ensue couldn't have possibly happened in the continental U.S.
But everything is forced. And I mean everything. A typical scene has Reynolds jumping into bed with Bullock because the parentals are at the door with breakfast in bed. Remember the last time your parents served you and your fiancee breakfast in bed? What's that? Never happened? Your parents respect the boundaries of your sleeping quarters? But then where (oh where) do the laughs in your life come from? Yes, The Proposal is the type of film where the parents knock on the door, wait three minutes while Bullock/Reynolds awkwardly fake spoon, then come in and have an extended chat. It's painful to see the machinations of comedy worked out like an equation. Ha-ha, they're not sleeping in the same bed because they're faking it and now he has "morning issues" and oh, my, she never saw that coming, and wheeeeeeeee someone get some oxygen so I don't pass out from side-splitting laughter. Ugh. Bastards.
As I've mentioned, there are a few laughs based entirely upon the winning personalities of Reynolds and Bullock. They are both so likable and endearing that you pull for the film to be funny and engaging regardless of their surroundings. The fact that the film fails is solely the responsibility of the screenwriter, a gent who clearly took the Sweet Home Alabama playbook, sprinkled in Meet the Parents, and then covered it all in a glossier version of Green Card. And none of those movies are even that good! Borrowing heavily from mediocrity is no way to handle business, but that's clearly what transpired here. You can see this film if you need a little escape, but years from now we'll all look back fondly and remember absolutely nothing about this title. In fact, I propose we all start repressing immediately.