BY COREY O'CONNELL
The traditional romantic comedy is experiencing a dry spell. A good rom-com is like a good pop song: It's light and sweet without completely lacking substance. Recent attempts, like this year's ‘New in Town,' succeed in being super sugary, but they have no heft whatsoever.
A strong pair of talented actors with good chemistry can save even the most vapid of rom-coms, though, and in ‘The Proposal,' Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds effortlessly carry the otherwise weak movie, keeping it entertaining right to the end.
The story itself is nothing special. When Margaret Tate (Bullock), an extremely powerful and equally loathed editor at a publishing house, loses her visa and faces deportation to Canada, she blackmails her browbeaten and ambitious assistant Andrew Paxton (Reynolds), forcing him to marry her.After meeting with an immigration agent, the two head to Andrew's family's estate in scenic Sitka, Alaska-they need to learn enough about each other to pass an interview the following week. Andrew's family is delighted, and they quickly take in Margaret like a sheep to the fold. Though she insists the proposal is strictly a business deal, Margaret inevitably begins to warm up to all of the Paxtons-including, of course, Andrew.
And who can blame her? Though Bullock is clearly the star, Reynolds is charming as Andrew. As Margaret watches Andrew fight with his father about taking over the family business, catch up with his ex-girlfriend, and indulge his mother and grandmother, she finally sees him as Andrew and not just as the person who brings her coffee-and the audience does, too. At the same time, the viewers also see Reynolds confirm that, as last year's ‘Definitely Maybe' suggests, he is a bankable, charismatic lead capable of holding his own against a veteran actress.
Bullock, on the other hand, proves that she's still a veteran actress capable of carrying a film. While her character and performance recall her past rom-com ventures (‘While You Were Sleeping' particularly comes to mind), Margaret is the perfect role for Bullock at this point in her career. She has the opportunity to exercise her comedic talents, but the role also allows her to play a strong, mature, uncompromising woman-two of her fortes.
Despite the poorly plotted script and corny dialogue, it's delightful to see Bullock and Reynolds go head-to-head as they try to navigate their "business deal" with as little conflict as possible. They are aided greatly by the supporting cast, especially the magnificent Betty White as Grandma Annie, and scene-stealer Oscar Nuñez ("The Office") as the town factotum who caters parties, works the counter of the general store, and performs an alarming striptease in the local bar.
Twenty years ago, Rob Reiner proved that the terms "romantic comedy" and "good movie" are not mutually exclusive with the clever and cute ‘When Harry Met Sally...' The film's success lies largely in the hands of magnetic leads Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.
Though they're no Harry and Sally, Reynolds and Bullock prove, once again, that a little chemistry goes a long way.