A weird thing happened on Ryan Reynolds' way to a career of cinematic mediocrity...he became an actor.
Mind you, Reynolds is not a brilliant actor. He's not Oscar material, that's for sure. However, just a few short years ago it seemed as if Reynolds would languish forever in D-list and straight-to-video materials in which he was the pretty boy and not much else.
Then, something started to change for Ryan Reynolds.
First, he went against typecast and starred in the remake of "The Amityville Horror." Was the film brilliant? Not in the least, but we learned that Reynolds had something else in him.
Then , Reynolds changed up his look just a bit and took sensitive guy roles in the films "Definitely Maybe," "Just Friends" and the more recent "Adventureland."
Suddenly, a light went on.
Who'd have thunk it?
Ryan Reynolds can act.
Reynolds does it again in "The Proposal," a light and fluffy romantic comedy of sorts starring Reynolds as Andrew Paxton, a publishing underling to his boss from hell, Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock).
While there's nary an original scene in "The Proposal," the film flies on the strength of the chemistry between Reynolds and Bullock and crisp dialogue from first-time screenwriter Pete Chiarelli.
If you can let go of the film's complete lack of originality, "The Proposal" is a charming, entertaining, heartwarming and frequently laugh-out-loud funny film.
Oh, and there's that small matter of Bullock's "first" semi-nude scene (actually not true, check out "Fire on the Amazon" for a much steamier scene).
Margaret, a Canadian who winds up in hot water and on the verge of deportation, blackmails Andrew into marrying her by threatening to have him blacklisted in the publishing industry if he doesn't go along with the plan. Indeed, he does, and the two head off to the 90th birthday celebration of Andrew's grandmother (Betty White) under the suspicious eye of an immigration agent (Denis O'Hare).
Do you know where this is going?
Sure you do.
Andrew and Margaret will be awkward and have awkward encounters.
Andrew will, of course, not be at all what Margaret expected and, likewise, once her initial "fish out of water" experience calms down, Margaret will start to show her softer side.
Andrew will fall in love.
Margaret will start to feel guilty.
The family, including mom (Mary Steenburgen) and dad (Craig T. Nelson), will start to catch on.
It will all work out in the end.
The quaint Alaska town, despite actually being a Massachusetts town, will serve as backdrop for small town humor, good hearted folks and a warm and fuzzy, good-hearted ending.
Ain't love grand?
All of this would be almost painfully predictable were it not for the comfortable charm and genuine chemistry exhibited between Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock.
Reynolds is a nice blend of boyish charm and awkward vulnerability, while Bullock reminds us after seven years without a rom-com why we always loved her in these roles. Bullock adds just the right dash of humanity to her spin as the boss Andrew dubs "Satan's Mistress" to make her transformation over the course of the film believable.
At nearly 90 years old herself, veteran comic actress Betty White steals virtually all of her scenes as a vibrant, slightly quirky grandmother trying to hold her family together and repair a rift between Andrew and his father (an under-utilized Craig T. Nelson). Mary Steenburgen, who seems to have read no maternal role she can't tackle, shines in what amounts to a one-note role as Andrew's mom and Malin Akerman finally underplays a role as the ex-girlfriend Andrew left behind when he left for the big city.
Despite borrowing virtually eery rom-com plot device, screenwriter Pete Chiarelli keeps the dialogue crisp and witty, while director Anne Fletcher ("27 Dresses") doesn't try to make "The Proposal" something it's not and ends up with a simple, easygoing and entertaining date flick for couples of all ages.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic