Bullock’s new screwball comedy sticks to a successful formula

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:02pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Hollywood has enough women to populate mature romantic comedies for the time being, Sandra Bullock being a prime example.

But what about the men? Have you wondered why Matthew McConaughey works so much? Surely it’s because the list of viable leading men between 30 and 45 who can handle comedy and romance is short.

So when producer-star Bullock went looking for a co-star for “The Proposal,” the road led to Ryan Reynolds, the tall put-on artist from “Definitely, Maybe” and “Adventureland.”

It’s a good choice; Reynolds has the ability to glide through movies with a pleasantly lighter-than-air quality, but he’s convincing in the clinches.

Both he and Bullock need to do some convincing in “The Proposal,” a contrived comedy based on sham marriage plans. She’s an ice-queeny New York book editor, he’s her long-suffering assistant, and she abruptly insists he marry her when her Canadian visa is about to run out.

They’ll have to fly to his family’s place in Sitka, Alaska, for the weekend to act like lovers, because a federal immigration agent is watching them very closely for any sign of falsity.

We can probably tick off the various complications awaiting them in Alaska: sharing a bedroom, kissing in front of his family, an eagle carrying off a small dog.

Well, all right, that last one was hard to predict. (The dog is fine, by the way.) There’s a cute granny (Betty White, ageless), a supportive mother (Mary Steenburgen), and a father (Craig T. Nelson) who disapproves of his son’s career choice.

Where’s Sandra Bullock in all this? Trying on a little Prada (as in “The Devil Wears …”), as a meanie. We can chart her journey by her hair: pulled back in severe fashion, she’s a witch; hanging free, she’s all nice and cuddly, singing rap songs and dancing in the forest with Betty White.

Since Sandra Bullock doesn’t read as terribly mean, you might have to suspend disbelief to get with the premise.

If you can — despite the movie’s devices — there’s a fairly painless knockabout comedy inside here. Director Anne Fletcher (“27 Dresses”) has the actors at ease, and thanks to digital landscaping, the Massachusetts locations even look like Alaska, if you squint a little.

Bullock and Reynolds both understand they’re in a screwball comedy based on mutual antagonism, an ancient formula that still works. Especially if you squint a little.

“The Proposal” 1/2

Mean boss Sandra Bullock forces assistant Ryan Reynolds to agree to marry her for legal-residency purposes. To sell immigration officials on the story she’ll have to visit his family in Alaska for a long weekend. It’s contrived but fairly painless, and at least both actors know the comedic nature of their roles.

Rated: PG-13 for subject matter

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor

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