(Touchstone) Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White, Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, Malin Akerman, Denis O’Hare, Oscar Nunez, Aasif Mandvi, Michael Nouri, Michael Mosley, Dale Place, Alicia Hunt. Directed by Anne Fletcher.
Back in the day, marriages were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. They were more or less business deals, meant to strengthen the position of each family in the community. Love didn’t enter the equation, as it rarely does in commerce.
Margaret Tate (Bullock), a.k.a. “The Devil’s Mistress” is a driven editor-in-chief at a major New York publisher. She is used to getting her way whether through pushing a reclusive author into appearing on Oprah to terrorizing her staff, particularly her put-upon, overworked assistant Andrew Paxton (Reynolds). Even those higher up the corporate ladder, like the Chairman of the Board (Nouri) are a little intimidated by her.
However, even Tate can’t intimidate the immigration bureaucracy. A native Canadian, her visa has expired and through her own inaction and her arrogance, the agency is threatening to deport her. Not only would she have to leave her comfortable West Central Park apartment, she’d have to resign her position at the firm as she couldn’t be employed at an American company.
However, Tate is nothing if not resourceful and comes up with a scheme; if her Alaska-born assistant marries her, she’ll be naturalized as a U.S. citizen. The trouble is, her assistant is not her biggest fan. However, threatened with the loss of his own position and the potential for getting the job he’s always wanted as an editor at the firm if he goes through with the scam finally elicits his reluctant agreement.
The fly in the ointment is a suspicious immigration officer named Gilbertson (O’Hare) who is quite certain the two of them are in cahoots to defraud the American government, the penalties for said crime being rather harsh. Now in up to his neck, Andrew brings his fiancée to his home in Sitka to meet the family, including his doting mother (Steenburgen) and the father (Nelson) who would have preferred that his son stay in Sitka to run the family businesses. There is a great deal of tension between father and son, which troubles free-spirited matriarch Grammy Ann (White). There is also the presence of ex-girlfriend Gertrude (Akerman) that certainly turns Andrew’s head.
The family is a bit surprised at the initial news of their prodigal son’s engagement but quickly embraces the standoffish Tate into their bosom, and then come up with a plan of their own – to see the happy couple wed on Grammy Ann’s birthday. However, the unconditional love of the Paxtons has begun to melt the polar icecap that is Margaret Tate’s heart as she realizes her scam would be far from victimless.
Director Fletcher, whose last effort was the solid 27 Dresses, is proving to have an adept hand at romantic comedies. While Pete Chiarelli’s script is formulaic and unremarkable, Fletcher did a good job at casting here. Each actor fills their role seamlessly. While the Alaska scenes were filmed in Massachusetts, she uses the setting effectively, creating the kind of small town feel that made the TV series “Northern Exposure” so charming.
Bullock has always excelled at the rom-com genre (see Practical Magic and The Lake House) and she is surprisingly good in the role of a heartless bitch, which she has rarely traversed in her career. Reynolds is slowly edging into the pantheon of actors whose presence in a film is enough incentive to get me to see it. After a winning role in Definitely, Maybe he is charismatic here, funny when he needs to be and charming throughout. Veterans Nelson, Steenburgen and White all do capable job with White doing her best work since Lake Placid. Quite frankly she about steals nearly every scene she’s in.
I’ll be the first to admit that no new ground is broken here, but quite frankly that’s okay. The question is whether the audience will be engaged enough by the couple to want them to end up together and both Bullock and Reynolds pull that off well. Their chemistry together isn’t necessarily the most scintillating but then again it shouldn’t be, given that they are supposed to be mismatched. These types of movies are older than Hollywood but there is a certain comfort in them. The Proposal is the kind of ideal date movie for warm summer nights that simply must be followed up with ice cream.
WSHY RENT THIS: Reynolds and Bullock are an attractive couple that you want to see ending up together. Supporting cast and location make the movie heartwarming. This is an ideal summer date movie, great for cuddling on the couch to watch with someone you love. Betty White is always entertaining.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The script is heavily clichéd and formulaic and really doesn’t break any new ground in the romantic comedy genre.
FAMILY VALUES: There are a couple of scenes of implied nudity and one in which a dog is threatened by a predator but otherwise suitable for all ages.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In the movie, Bullock plays a Canadian threatened by deportation who escapes by marrying her American assistant. In reality, Bullock is an American and Reynolds is a Canadian.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: Nothing listed.
FINAL RATING: 6/10
TOMORROW: Couples Retreat