REVIEW: The Proposal [2009]

“The witch is on her broom”

It is safe to say, my man-crush on Ryan Reynolds has remained intact after watching his new film The Proposal. It could have gotten ugly being a vehicle for Sandra Bullock, (Reynolds is in fact the “romantic interest”), directed by Anne Fletcher, the woman behind the occasionally entertaining 27 Dresses. Would I have enjoyed myself as much as I did if Reynolds—a Canadian playing an American, opposite an American playing a Canadian—was not there? Probably not. That is what his sarcastic humor does for the romantic comedy, it makes it worth the time; he seriously makes this movie. But I don’t want to disregard everything in the film, because I actually thought Bullock was good as the tough as nails, cutthroat boss. In fact, for an actress I don’t generally enjoy, the last two I’ve seen including her have been surprisingly good. Yes, I enjoyed The Lake House.

Pete Chiarelli’s script is by no means original at all. Besides making it the woman that needs a sham marriage to stay in the country instead of the man, what we have here is a premise devoid of creativity. However, all these films contain that crutch; it’s nothing new. One doesn’t go to a date movie like this for intelligent storytelling, it’s about being entertained for a couple hours, watching the antics of love do their worst onscreen. And, frankly, The Proposal does exactly that. I laughed a lot during the course of this Alaskan adventure, knowing the outcome, but genuinely interested to see the path that would lead to it. This high-powered book-publishing editor-in-chief is at risk of losing her job for a whole year if she is deported to Canada. None of her employees would be crushed from this fact, as they are completely scared of her, computer messaging each other warnings when she is moving around the office.

While they all would probably be better off emotionally, alleviated of a lot of stress, it is her assistant that would lose the most if she were sent away. Being her right-hand man, despite loathing her as well, he’d be the first to be fired in order to rid the office of anything Margaret Tate. Therefore, when confronted with the proposal of marriage, he decides to risk jail in order to blackmail his “bride-to-be” into giving him a promotion to editor and the respect he knows he deserves and thinks she does as well. The reason this film is as funny as it is? Mainly because Reynolds’ Andrew Paxton eventually realizes he has the upper hand, his fake doting charm is washed away and the biting, cruel longing for payback comes to the surface as it is his turn to make Margaret’s life a living hell. Satan’s mistress no longer holds the control in their relationship, as he is the only chance she has of keeping her job.

So, it becomes a test of each person’s mettle. He has to lie to his parents and Gammy, (it’s her 90th birthday), about being in love with the woman he abhors most in this world, and she must pretend to not be the cold, frigid, soulless person she is. The course of events in the small Alaskan town—virtually owned by the Paxton’s—becomes the true driving force of the film. The actual wedding and immigration fraud is in fact only a premise to splice together numerous comedic skits and opportunity for both Reynolds and Bullock to verbally spar. The quick wit is fun, especially in moments like the telling of how Andrew proposed. It is an ad-libbed discourse told by the back and forth of both New Yorkers, doing their best to make the other seem weak and powerless. An attempt is made to show a conflict in idealisms on behalf of Reynolds and his father played by Craig T. Nelson, but it is just a side plot that has no legs except to give a reason as to why the immigration agent would travel to them. The film works when it is characters are acting goofy or hating each other. There really isn’t much that is funnier than a dysfunctional family.

Besides the scene stealing performance from Reynolds, (don’t get me wrong, he won’t be nominated for any Oscars here, but he does what he is supposed to and makes this thing worth watching), and the solid job from Bullock, you can’t leave this film without a smile forming when thinking back to both Betty White and Oscar Nuñez. These two are hysterical. White is great as Gammy, never afraid to speak her mind or make the guest uncomfortable. Without shame, she is at her best opposite Bullock, definitely having a fun time with the role. She is also a main catalyst in the second of two “musical numbers,” getting her soon-to-be granddaughter to chant and dance around an indigenous fire ceremony. That chanting becomes a wonderful rendition of “Get Low” by Lil Jon. But you can’t forget the brilliant falsetto from Reynolds doing Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two”. The scene begs you to recall 27 Dresses’ best scene of “Benny and the Jets”. Fletcher seems to like her sing-a-longs.

And, of course, there’s Nuñez. His first appearance made me laugh due to his comical Spanish accent. Seeing him as the straight man, (no joke intended), opposite the crazies in “The Office,” gives you a certain typecast idea of what he’ll be doing. Throw all those preconceptions out the window, though, because he is definitely not Oscar from television. No, he is Sitka’s resident butler, country store manager, and exotic dancer amongst other occupations. The Spanish lisp gets funnier as the film goes on and his antics more absurd. It is supporting roles like his that prove the effectiveness of the film, making it more about the audience laughing and less about what may happen to Reynolds and Bullock. Sit back and enjoy a good time, because The Proposal has the potential of being a lasting hit at the box office, especially as reverse programming to summer blockbusters like Transformers 2. So girls, if your man drags you to see robotic carnage, don’t feel bad returning the favor with this little gem. He may actually enjoy it, although he’ll never tell you so.

The Proposal 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] (l to r) SANDRA BULLOCK, RYAN REYNOLDS. Photo: Kerry Hayes SMPSP ‘© Touchstone Pictures, Inc. All rights reserved.’
[2] (l to r) SANDRA BULLOCK, BETTY WHITE. Photo: Kerry Hayes SMPSP ‘© Touchstone Pictures, Inc. All rights reserved.’


One Thought to “REVIEW: The Proposal [2009]”

  1. Andrea

    In my opinion, the plot is not so original, but there were some twists and turns. Betty White really adds humor to the movie. As a grandma, you wouldn’t imagine your own grandma dancing in the woods. Although I do not think Reynolds and Bullock have onset chemistry, I think they pull it off. Reynolds’ character does not appear to have any self respect for himself as he adheres to threats in order to make it in the world.

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