The Proposal (2009)

(On TV, January 2015)  The nice thing about high-concept romantic comedies is that their failure mode is relatively innocuous: Even when they don’t work, they’re sort-of-enjoyable to watch as long as the lead actors are well cast.  That’s definitely the case with The Proposal, an uneven romantic comedy featuring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.  Both of them play roles familiar to them: As a high-powered publishing executive, it’s not hard to see in Bullock’s performance echoes of Miss Congeniality.  As a charming but long-suffering assistant, Reynolds here best plays his romantic lead archetype; sometimes-cocky yet almost irresistibly affable behind his chipmunk grin.  Despite (or because) the 12-year age difference, both of them play well with each other –with extra grins given that he’s a Canadian playing an American whereas she’s an American playing a Canadian.  They chemistry goes a long way in overcoming the frequent shortcomings of the film, from an Alaskan setting straight out of the East coast, a structure that feels forced to go back to New York for its conclusion, or an unnerving fascination for Oscar Nunez’s obnoxious character all the way to the end credit sequence.  Some of the farce is obvious: sometimes it works almost despite itself (such as for the laboriously set-up nude scene), sometimes it just flops around curiously, asking for laughs and not getting any (such as; have we mentioned Oscar Nunez’s character?).  At least Bullock and Reynolds are almost always there on-screen, earning sympathy despite an imperfect script.  That makes The Proposal worth a look even when it doesn’t reach its fullest potential –what’s not to like about the sumptuous setting, or the fun of hanging out with two likable leads?

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