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Ripped Romance 

Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds have great chemistry in 'The Proposal'—but the movie around them falls apart

Putting Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in a movie together was a good idea. They have great chemistry, are quite charming and can get some good laughs, even with meager material. Hopefully, The Proposal won't be the only time they share the screen—because the movie isn't half as good as the stars occupying it.

I was thoroughly enjoying this film before Betty White showed up doing some Alaskan tribal dance in the forest. Until this awkward and stupid scene, I was under this film's sweet, gooey spell. Too bad it lost its way.

Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a big-time player at a book-publishing company, and boss to Andrew Paxton (Reynolds). Andrew endures all sorts of job humiliation in the hopes that he will one day become an editor. Margaret specializes in condescending tones and ruining Andrew's weekends with overtime, so it's fair to assume that Andrew hates Margaret.

It turns out that Margaret, a Canadian, has an elapsed work visa, and deportation is imminent. On the spot, Margaret comes up with a big lie: She and Andrew have been conducting a secret relationship, and they are engaged. To keep Margaret from getting shipped back to Canada—and to prevent Andrew from losing his job—the two must masquerade and tie the knot, and do it in a convincing manner. A snotty immigration agent (Denis O'Hare) is keeping an eye on them and would like nothing better than to catch them in their lie.

One thing leads to another, and the two find themselves on a plane to Alaska for a visit with Andrew's cookie-cutter family. There's the grouchy and unloving father (Craig T. Nelson) who wants Andrew to dump the literary pipe dream and take over the family business. There's the too-sweet-for-words mom (the impossibly beautiful Mary Steenburgen), who just wants her little boy to be happy. And then there's the kooky grandmother (White) who feels up Margaret's breasts.

Sure, the premise is ridiculous, but Bullock and Reynolds make it work—until Pete Chiarelli's script and Anne Fletcher's direction get fatally goofy after the film's halfway mark. The duo is quite funny when they are at odds and basically hating each other. When they predictably go soft on one another, it's like a torpedo in the side of an already unsteady ship.

Say all you want about how funny Betty White—in her late 80s—can still be; her part in this film was atrociously written and an insult to her talents. Her forest-dance scene with Bullock is embarrassing, and that's just the primer for a horrendously staged heart-attack moment.

I have to give props to those responsible for the personal training of Reynolds and Bullock. They have a comical almost-nude scene together that shows things are going well at the gym. Members of all genders and sexual orientations will be mighty pleased by the visuals. And kudos to Bullock, who is 12 years older than Reynolds, yet is totally convincing as his love interest. In Hollywood, it's usually older men who get to mess around with younger women.

Reynolds has a talent for making bad movies almost tolerable. His deer-in-the-headlights shtick complements Bullock's nasty-boss act. Meanwhile, Bullock is very good at showing the vulnerable side of Margaret. They are actually a cute movie couple, and I found myself rooting for their inevitable get together.

Too bad things get moronic, on top of being predictable. Bullock and Reynolds are much better than, say, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, but their material is just as bad. Put them in a better film, and we might have something.

The Proposal
Rated PG-13 · 108 minutes · 2009
Official Site: theproposal.movies.go.com
Director: Anne Fletcher
Producer: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mary McLaglen and Sandra Bullock
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig Nelson, Betty White, Denis O'Hare, Malin Akerman, Oscar Nuñez, Aasif Mandvi, Michael Nouri, Michael Mosley, Dale Place and Alicia Hunt

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