The Proposal 

Love Formula: Old ground proves surprisingly comfortable for Bullock & Reynolds.

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The modern Hollywood romantic comedy can be made only so many ways. The filmmakers behind The Proposal didn’t even try to find a new one. And the fact that it works anyway says everything about the virtues of simple execution.

It doesn’t take an encyclopedic knowledge of film history to recognize that The Proposal is pretty much a wholesale retread of the 1990 Andie MacDowell/Gerard Depardieu vehicle Green Card. This time around, Canadian book editor and much-loathed boss Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is in danger of losing her visa and her job; her long-time, long-suffering assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) becomes a prime candidate for an engagement-then-marriage of convenience. INS investigators will eventually test their story of true love, but first they’ll have to pass the test of a long weekend with Andrew’s family in Alaska.

The setting provides a few fish-out-of-water variables to the tried-and-true set-up of two people pretending to be in love who then fall in love for real. Bullock gets to look silly wandering through the streets of Sitka in stiletto heels, or letting what passes for a local exotic dancer (Oscar Nuñez) gyrate all over her. Those who fear the sight of new ground being broken can attend safely.

The old ground, however, proves surprisingly comfortable. Reynolds—who for most of his career has radiated smugness—does genuinely likeable work as a guy with plenty of insecurity issues to work through, while also biting off some of the script’s sharpest lines. Bullock finds the sympathetic core of her flinty character, re-discovering the appeal of a decade ago. Even Betty White does nice things with the usually thankless role of the wacky granny. It’s funnier and more charming than it seems to have any right to be.

The Proposal is assured enough when it’s low-key that the ridiculous stuff—like an eagle kidnapping a puppy, or Bullock cutting loose with a dance around a bonfire—feels even more ridiculous. Give a familiar recipe some quality ingredients, and sometimes that’s all you need.


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Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White
Rated PG-13

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