Monday, June 22, 2009

A Review of "The Proposal"

**NOTE** I wrote this after seeing a screening of the movie almost a month ago, and forgot to post it before the film's release. Oops.

You know this plot, you've seen it before. An immigrant who is facing deportation who is willing to do anything to stay in America comes up with the idea of marrying an American citizen just to get citizenship. So how do you prevent this from becoming a remake of “Green Card” or the short-lived series “Billy”? You combine it with a fish-out-of-water story.

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock: “Speed”) is a powerful editor at Colden Books; she's good at her job, but her employees are terrified of her. This doesn't really matter to her though, as she doesn't have time for people, or , it seems, for doing the paperwork that will keep her from getting deported back to Canada.

Margaret's assistant, Andrew Paxton(Ryan Reynolds: “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), is dedicated to doing whatever he needs to for his boss, even though he doesn't like her very much. He wants to be an editor himself, and he wants to get published, and he believes that hard work and dedication will eventually lead to his goal.

Faced with deportation, Margaret decides to blackmail Andrew into marrying her long enough for her to become a citizen. He reluctantly agrees, but to make things seem legit to a skeptical immigration agent he makes her come home to Alaska with him for his grandmother's 90th birthday.

Upon arriving in Alaska, Margaret is introduced to Andrew's mother (Mary Steenburgen: “Joan of Arcadia”, “It Runs In The Family”), who just wants the family to be together again, his father (Craig T. Nelson: “Coach”, “Poltergeist”), who wants Andrew to come home and take over the family businesses, his Grandma Annie (Betty White: “Golden Girls”), and his ex-girlfriend, Gertrude (Malin Akerman: “Watchmen”). Andrew's family and friends are surprised to find out he's marrying a woman whom he seems to hate, but for the most part are happy for him.

As the film progresses, Andrew and Margaret predictably start to fall for each other for real; both denying it, of course. This leads to the climax where they have to figure out if they are really fooling the immigration agent, Andrew's family, or just fooling themselves.

“The Proposal” is a cute little chick flick that can also double as a date movie (no doubt in trade for seeing something a bit manlier like “Star Trek” or “The Hangover”). There's nothing particularly special in it, but nothing really to dislike either; it's cinematic popcorn, it's crunchy and enjoyable, but there's no real substance to it.

Reynolds and Bullock share the screen well together, and create a believable sense of chemistry between them, but much like “Yes, Man” we have a huge age gap between our romantic leads. Despite being a dozen years older than her romantic interest, Bullock looks really good, and since the age difference is acknowledged (in a throw-away line, but it's acknowledgment all the same) it's only going to be a distraction for you if you let it be.

One of the things that surprised me the most was Betty White. First off, she seems to only be about three feet tall now, and sometimes looks like a really well made animatronic. The other was her performance; sure she's still playing the I'm-not-as-dumb-as-I-seem type of character that she's been playing for the last thirty years, but somehow it seems to work better for her here than in some other films.

The biggest disappointments would have to be the rest of Andrew's family, and Gertrude, his ex. It's not that there's no reason for them to be in the film, it's more that they seem to be there for only that reason. Gert is there to make Margaret feel bad, Joe is there to cause problems and explain why Andrew left Alaska in the first place. I know it seems silly to pick on this in a romantic comedy, and in the limited amount of time the filmmakers had it makes sense that they would focus more on gags than character development, but still, Ramone (Oscar Nunez: “The Office”), the island's caterer/justice of the peace/stripper, gets more screen time than any of these other characters.

I will admit, I liked this film, it was certainly better than “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”, but it's still really not my cup of coffee. If you are looking for a cute little date movie, then this is not a bad choice. In fact, given the movies it's up against on its opening weekend (“Year One”, and “Whatever Works”), it may be your best choice. Still, you won't be missing anything by waiting for DVD.

Sweet without being syrupy, cute without being too dumb, and tugging upon heartstrings without tear-jerking; “The Proposal” will be making its offer to you in theaters nationwide starting June 19th.

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