After declaring the romantic comedy genre a dead duck back in 2002, Sandra Bullock is back in a movie that shows every sign of belonging to the shunned species – it waddles, it quacks, but is it healthy? What are its vital signs? Is it, in fact, a twitching carcass, a living-dead duck?
The Proposal starts promisingly, with Bullock flexing her comedy muscles in the role of a tyrannical New York publishing executive whose very presence causes minions to quake. (Shades of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.) “The witch is on her broom,” is the instant message that pings between members of her staff the instant Bullock’s Margaret Tate steps into the building.
The minion quaking the most is Margaret’s much put-upon assistant, Ryan Reynolds’s Andrew Paxton, who has spent years under her thumb, bullied and exploited. Yet – and here comes the familiar rom-com setup – when Margaret finds herself facing summary deportation back to her native Canada (shades of Green Card), she bribes him into going through with a sham marriage proposal.
To keep the immigration hounds off her back, she agrees to accompany Andrew on a visit to his Alaskan hometown to meet his – you knew this was coming – oh-so quirky family (mother Mary Steenburgen, father Craig T Nelson and grannie Betty White, still game at 87 – that’s the Golden Girl herself; her character’s 89 pushing 90).
Of course, Margaret’s a fish out of water when she arrives in her high-heeled Christian Louboutin shoes in rugged, rustic Alaska (Andrew’s family appears to own an entire island); before long, though, she’s actually in the water, tumbling out of a speed boat in one of a series of humbling comeuppances designed to bring her down to earth and, ultimately, to bring her closer to Reynold’s blandly handsome Andrew (Reynolds is married to Scarlett Johannson, so he must have something).
There you have it – all the features you’d expect of the particular breed of romantic comedy in which the leading couple start off hating each other, spend several reels squabbling, and end up falling in love. Just think of any number of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy films or Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally…
Compared with those classics, The Proposal is a pretty feeble offering – not that that has stopped it topping the US box office. Yes, it’s good to see Bullock showing off her great comic timing and flair for goofy pratfalls, and good to see her showing off a remarkably buff body in a scene that finds her completely naked save for a strategically placed loofah. Yet the movie is so formulaic that you’ll need a pretty high tolerance level for rom-com foolery for The Proposal to be to your taste. Those allergic to duck should look elsewhere.
On general release from 22 July.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.