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My Proposal: Better Romance Comedies

Movie Title: The Proposal (2009)
Spoilers: No

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The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, has an interesting quiver-full of strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are the cast and the performances. The sprightly and always attractive Sandra Bullock brings out a worthy performance as we've come to expect. Reynolds does not disappoint. Something was missing from the movie, but that something wasn't the fault of the two lead actors. Its weaknesses were in the writing and cold soup humor.

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is a big business bitch, the kind her employees dream about seeing get hit by a speeding cab. Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) is one of her employees, an employee of exceptionally high fidelity. He has to be to stay on his boss’ good list, which happens to be a list that few (if any) other people are on. In a workplace where the drama stays high from people getting fired like kiln bricks, you’d think little could be done about it. But that changes when it comes to light that Tate is an illegal alien with an expiring Visa.

The only way she can stay in America and keep her powerful, prestigious job as editor-in-chief for Colden Books is if she's an American citizen. The only fast-track way to achieve that goal is to get married…and who better than her single personal assistant? Don't tell me you didn't see that coming! And that paltry premise sets the stage for the sometimes-serious-but-seldom-funny drama/romance that is The Proposal.

I'll start by making a proposal of my own—how about more humor and less extended family dynamics being showcased? My proposal wasn’t met, and that’s too bad. That was what caused the plot to drag along like the stop-and-start attention span of an A.D.D. middle-schooler. And so we move on simply noting the film's inability to keep you glued to the screen with excitement at what is to come.

The chemistry-less take-off of a romance between Tate and Paxton is intentional, though it takes some getting used to. It's part of the build-up, which is a good thing, because it takes some getting-going to get past the unfunny-ness of Grandma Annie (Betty White) and the family. I’d get the same awkward feeling in my cheeks being around granny as I did around my former in-laws at Christmas time. I just know it!

Granny I needed less of. Granny I couldn't stand! Her character beat the film to a pulp. Coach's Craig T. Nelson as “Joe Paxton” I could have used more of. He has that gift of being able to bring out drama at select moments, also known as the ability to act. Whatever character he takes on never usurps anyone else’s role. That’s a quality that few actors have.

The film is almost less about the proposal than it is about the family and living in Alaska with a noisy poodle that, in my opinion, needs to be booted across the living room with steel toe boots on. The bottom line is that underneath the flimsy writing and sometimes altogether bad humor lies a well-acted story of love that does manage to hit at least a few of the right emotional buttons. To be on the safe side, only dyed-in-the-wool romance junkies should attempt to view.

(JH)

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Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: A boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S.
Director: Anne Fletcher
Starring: Sandra Bullock “Margaret Tate,” Ryan Reynolds “Andrew Paxton,” Mary Steenburgen “Grace Paxton,” Craig T. Nelson “Joe Paxton,” Betty White “Grandma Annie,” Denis O'Hare “Mr. Gilbertson”
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance

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