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Sunday, November 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Overcast
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The Proposal: My boss, my wife
Co-workers cook up a marriage of convenience
on
Likable leads save the day.
Likable leads save the day.

Only rarely do romantic comedies reinvent the wheel, which is why whole decades passed between Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally... and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Proposal is just another studio product, which means it rises or falls on the likability of the leads. It does feature two charismatic performers, although, combined, they have the chemistry of second cousins.

Sandra Bullock is an all-work and no-play Manhattan publisher named Margaret. When the Canadian-born Margaret is threatened with deportation (and, by extension, professional ruin), she bullies her long-suffering assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) into agreeing to a marriage of convenience, the reasoning being that if her career goes down the drain, so does his. With a suspicious agent from Immigration Services breathing down their newly engaged necks, Andrew and Margaret head to Andrew's native Alaska to break the news to his family, including his 90-year-old grandmother (Betty White).

The script could have used a stronger point of view - the split perspective ends up rendering both characters' inner lives somewhat remote - and it almost entirely ignores its would-be lovers' gap in age and power (Bullock is 12 years Reynolds' senior, and her character his workplace superior). I suppose one should be grateful that The Proposal doesn't waste its time on cougar wisecracks, but still - there was risky, fertile ground there to be explored in the gender politics of the pairing. (What we do get, in a snippet of nearly nude physical comedy, is confirmation that Bullock is still in possession of both irresistible comic timing and a slammin' body.)

Director Anne Fletcher demonstrates, as with her 27 Dresses, that she can put together a funny, able romantic comedy that is a cut above, but no more. Still, those leads are awfully likable; and if The Proposal doesn't reinvent the wheel, merrily we roll along nonetheless.

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