Hollywood must churn out at least a dozen movies like The Proposal every year, cobbled together Frankenstein-style from the parts of countless older films. Romantic comedies (most of them, anyway) are as predictable and formulaic as horror films, with saucy grandmas sitting in for horny teens and fewer axe murders.
The Proposal feels particularly pre-packaged… it borrows its basic premise (couple falls in love while pretending to be engaged for immigration purposes) from Green Card, its lonely-woman-finds-a-family theme from While You Were Sleeping (complete with a nearly identical altar confession by Bullock) and its prickly boss/loyal employee dynamic from yet another Bullock film, Two Weeks Notice.
You also have the aforementioned saucy grandma (played winningly by Betty White), a fish out of water (or city girl in small-town Alaska) thing, a dog that has it in for the main character and a cinnamon latte destined to end up on somebody’s shirt. I know the saying that there are only seven types of stories, but is there really only one way to tell this one?
Now all of this is just a long way to make the point that a movie such as The Proposal doesn’t score points for originality. Its ultimate success or failure boils down to casting. And in that sense, they done good. Sandra Bullock is as endearing and attractive a comic actress as any working today (I’ve loved her since that first memorable role in Speed). And Ryan Reynolds, whom I know only from brief roles in action films, matches her step for step with a winning, funny performance — playing the straight man here, he is particularly good at reaction shots.
The two have strong chemistry — a rare commodity in modern romantic comedies — and that alone carries the film to the finish line despite its lack of originality.
My feelings about this film are summed up in one scene (watch it below), a ludicrous meet-up between the Bullock and White characters in the woods. Grandma is conducting some sort of tribal ritual for good luck and encourages Bullock to join in. It’s exactly the kind of contrivance films like this thrive on. But it ends with Sandra Bullock dancing hip-hop style to Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz’ ‘Get Low,’ and that can only be a good thing.