The Proposal

Cast:
Sandra Bullock as Margaret Tate
Ryan Reynolds as Andrew Paxton
Mary Steenburgen as Grace Paxton
Craig T Nelson as Joe Paxton
Betty White as Grandma Annie
Denis O’Hare as Mr. Gilbertson
Malin Akerman as Gertrude
Oscar Nunez as Ramone
Aasif Mandvi as Bob Spaulding
Michael Nouri as Chairman Bergen
Michael Mosley as Chuck
Dale Place as Jim McKittrick
Alicia Hunt as Coffee Barista
Alexis Garcia as Immigration Clerk
Kortney Adams as Colden Books Receptionist

Summary:
“The Proposal” is a smart and funny rom-com that sports a near pitch-perfect cast, but falters a bit in the ‘rom’ category in the third act.

Story:
When witch of a boss Margaret Tate (Bullock) is threatened with deportation back to her native Canada, she blackmails her executive assistant (Reynolds) at a big time New York publishing house to marry her in order to allow her to stay. When immigration officials become suspicious of the arrangement, a reluctant Andrew takes Margaret to Alaska for his grandma’s 90th birthday party to keep up the guise of their ‘relationship.’ When Margaret is introduced and accepted by the Paxton clan – an affluent Alaskan family for generations – she remembers the long forgotten value of family and begins to have second thoughts about the forced arrangement with Andrew all the while the pair grow awkwardly closer.

“The Proposal” is rated PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language.

What Worked:
The best parts of this romantic comedy are the comedy bits. Bullock and Reynolds have solid chemistry and a witty script by Peter Chiarelli to guide them. Comedic highlights include the way her employees use instant messaging one another to keep track of her movements around the office in order not to be caught loafing. Once in Sitka, Alaska, (the Paxton’s home town) the eagle versus the puppy and the shower scene offer up the biggest laughs between the two main characters.

However, the best comedic moments are reserved for Betty White’s Grandma Annie and Oscar Nunez’s Ramone. White is a gas as the aging but feisty family elder, whether at the impromptu bachelorette party or celebrating Andrew’s engagement announcement via a tribal dance around a bonfire in the woods – all good stuff. The biggest laughs of the film though are those provided by township everyman Ramone. His character first crops up as a waiter at the welcoming party at the Paxton home, but his presence runs through the entire film in some pretty entertaining ways.

Steenburgen, Nelson and Ackerman get a thumbs up as well, but even collectively do not have a ton of screen time.

Another character that did a pretty good job in the film was Rockport, Massachusetts – the town that doubled for Sitka, Alaska. The filmmakers gave Rockport a makeover for a few weeks during filming and dropped a few digital mountains and trees in the background. There was talk of some accidental leftovers in the town’s transformation that keen-eyed viewers can likely pick out – like a lobster sign hanging near a converted shop sign. The decision ruffled a few feathers in Alaska, but in the end the actual Sitka was deemed too remote for filming.

What Didn’t Work:
My biggest problem with “The Proposal” was the romance part. It is clear that true feelings are building between Andrew and Margaret during the Alaska visit, but most are fast and somewhat awkward – a glance after a first kiss, a back rub, etc… It comes off a bit disingenuous as well because up until that first awkward kiss in their three year boss/assistant relationship, you are told to believe that Andrew loathed Margaret. He was even attempting to turn her blackmailing ways back on her in order to advance his own career. He even remarked how he used to dream of her getting hit by a cab.

I think all of this could have been fleshed out a bit better with some less subtle hints of some sparks in their past perhaps. By the time Andrew professes his feelings, which you knew was coming, I couldn’t help but wonder exactly how he got to that point based on what you saw on the screen.

In all, I’d say “The Proposal” is worth seeing. It’s smart and funny, even if a bit uneven and driving towards an inevitable happy ending… this is Disney after all. I like Reynolds in comedies. I still crack up every time I see 2005′s “Just Friends.” He’s got great timing and that usually benefits every one around him. Bullock is no slouch either and still looks great… even naked. Yes, naked. And stay for the credits, there are a few bonus laughs there.

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