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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.33%
Worth A Look: 8.33%
Just Average29.17%
Pretty Crappy: 25%

5 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Proposal, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Devil Wears Parka"
1 stars

The experience of watching ‘The Proposal” is not unlike attending a performance from a cover band specializing in the songs of Billy Joel--both offer up the prospect of two hours of mind-numbing blandness without a single original element on display during that time. There isn’t a single thing here that hasn’t been seen a hundred times before and done a hundred times better than it has been done here. It is so familiar, in fact, that if the actors on the screen suddenly began to forget their lines, most of the people in the audience would be able to prompt them even without actually seeing the film before. Under normal circumstances, such a complete lack of ambition might have inspired some form of palpable critical rage on my part but if this movie accomplishes anything (and I’m not saying that it does), it is the fact that it is so fundamentally boring in every possible way, shape and form that by the time it finally wheezed to its merciful end, I was too exhausted from experiencing its creative exhaustion to really work up a head of genuine anger towards it.

Sandra Bullock stars as Margaret Tate, a deeply unlikable high-powered book editor who rules her staff with a well-manicured fist and has no personal life to speak of. The person unlucky enough to bear most of the brunt of her sheer unpleasantness is her assistant, Drew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), who sucks it all up and bears with it in the hopes of one day earning a dreamed-for promotion to editor. Alas, both of their careers are threatened when it turns out that Margaret, who is Canadian by birth, blithely violated one of the terms of her visa application in order to attend a book fair out of the country (“The U.S. government doesn’t care who publishes Don Delio!”) and is being deported as a result, a move that will cost both of them their jobs. Thinking quickly, Margaret announces to her bosses that there is no problem because she and Drew are engaged to be married and by doing that, she will be able to stay in the country. Of course, this comes as news to Drew, who eventually agrees to take part in the scam in exchange for that promotion to editor. In order to prove that they are indeed a real couple and to help get their stories straight before an upcoming meeting with an exceptionally incredulous INS agent (Denis O’Hare), the two venture up to Drew’s Alaskan hometown to celebrate his grandmother’s 90th birthday and to break the news to his folks.

Before you can say, “Okay, a cross between ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Green Card’--that is what I am getting for my ten bucks?,” they arrive in his remote hometown of Sitka (presumably named after the beloved supporting player from many a Three Stooges short, several of which I had playing in my mind while watching this), a bucolic paradise where hoary movie clichés apparently go to live out their final days. There is a Grumpy Dad (Craig T. Nelson, looking disconcertingly like that creepy old guy from “Poltergeist II”) who wants Drew to knock off the book nonsense and come home and run the billion-dollar family business. There is a Loving Mom (Mary Steenburgen) who fears that her husband’s insistence on having Drew return may cause him to never come back to visit again. (If I were Drew, I would assuage both of them by pointing out that since all the “Alaska” stuff was actually shot in Massachusetts, the commute between there and New York is actually fairly reasonable.) There is a Wacky Granny (played, almost inevitably, by Betty White), who dabbles in Native American spirituality and says all sorts of randy things that are supposed to be funny because they are coming from an elderly woman. There is a Fey Ethnic Type (Oscar Nunez) who, in a running joke that turns out to be neither funny nor particularly fleet of foot, turns out to be the local waiter, male stripper, general store proprietor and justice of the peace. There is Drew’s Old Flame (Malin Akerman, a.k.a. The Blonde Hole of Comedy), who is clearly still carrying a torch for him and yes, there is even an Adorable Puppy whose demise Margaret almost inspires by inadvertently letting it out one morning. As you can probably guess, Margaret and Drew start off by looking at their impending union strictly as a business arrangement but over the next couple of days--after such bonding exercises as running into each other while naked and discovering a shared love for crappy 80’s-era dance music, they begin to discover that they have real feelings for each other and as you can probably also guess, this discovery leads to a tearful admission of the truth in the most publicly embarrassing manner possible, the separation of the two lovebirds, a mad dash to the airport and (Spoiler Alert) an ending in which said lovebirds are reunited, even though I think they are still in the same legal jeopardy that they were before.

Obviously, no one goes into something like “The Proposal”--whether they are making it or attending it--with any great illusions regarding its originality. However, it would seem that if you are going to make a movie in which all of the elements are as familiar as they are here, the best way to approach the material would be to put a twist on some of them so that it seems at least a little fresher. Barring that, you would hope that the film could at least pep things up by investing the material with enough madcap energy to distract from how little uniqueness is really on display. Sadly, neither of those approaches is put into play here. As the film goes on and on, it becomes painfully obvious that with the singular exception of having the normally sunny and cheerful Sandra Bullock trying to pass herself off as a hateful monster (a pose that is slightly less believable than the idea of her as a big-time publishing muckety-muck), there is absolutely nothing in the script by first-time screenwriter Pete Chiarelli that cannot be seen coming a hundred miles away. The jokes are straight out of a particularly uninspired “Three’s Company” episode, the romance that develops between the two main characters is not convincing for a second and the quirky supporting characters aren’t even strong enough to distract from a story as threadbare as this.

At the same time, director Anne Fletcher handles the material in such a plodding manner that any hopes of developing something resembling comedic momentum are dashed. Consider the scene in which Margaret and Drew wind up crashing into each other while each one is stark naked (though seen only from PG-13 angles)--not the most inspired piece of humor ever created but one that certainly contains the ingredients for a couple of cheap laughs. The problem is, Fletcher sets up the joke in such a laborious and lengthy manner (at one point requiring a character to completely disrobe after a workout without ever taking off their iPod, a feat that I invite you to try for yourself in order to experience all the awkwardness involved) that even the most indulgent audience members are likely to start muttering “Get on with it!” long before it comes to its merciful end.

The one thing about “The Proposal” that is funny, or as close to funny as it gets, is how bizarrely sexist it is, which is odd since it is presumably being aimed directly at female audiences who presumably have little interest in the likes of “Transformers.” Although it never comes right out to say it, the implicit message of the film is that no matter how successful a woman might be in the working world, none of those achievements make a difference if she doesn’t have a feller by her side--it is the lack of a man in her life and her pants that has made her a bitter and unhappy careerist and only by getting married and accepting her lot as someone’s wife can she become an acceptable member of society. Think I’m kidding--one of the last lines of dialogue in the film is the retort “Show her whose boss, Andrew!” Under normal circumstances, I might have ignored or overlooked this aspect of the film but I was then reminded of the fact that Anne Fletcher’s previous directorial effort was “27 Dresses,” another so-called chick flick that displayed yet another unflattering caricature of an unmarried woman as some sort of unhappy, unfulfilled nut bag. Is it possible that “Anne Fletcher” is really the code name for some vast right-wing Hollywood-based conspiracy designed to destroy feminism through crappy rom-coms? I dunno, but I must admit that it would make for a more interesting film than this one.

At this point, there are many of you out there who are no doubt grumbling that I am taking this film too seriously and that if I had seen it with a paying audience of regular people who were just out to have a good time, I might have found myself liking it more. As it turns out, I actually did catch “The Proposal” with just such an audience at a sneak preview screening one Saturday night. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that for the most part, they seemed to enjoy the film and were laughing throughout. However, I would like to point out that they seemed equally enthused with the trailers for “All About Steve,” a Sandra Bullock vehicle that actually looks worse than this one, and “Old Dogs,” some horrific-looking thing involving John Travolta and Robin Williams bonding with little kids and getting smacked around by Matt Dillon and a flock of penguins. That said, there was one audience member in that crowd who seemed to be on my wavelength by the way that he or she softly wept throughout most of the film. Sure, sure, one might quibble that since this person was an infant that was only a couple of months old at most, those tears could have been about anything but I like to think that he or she was just displaying a sense of discerning taste that practically everyone else in that theater could have learned something from.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18122&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/18/09 23:56:15
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User Comments

3/08/15 cody Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock put on show in this entertaining comedy! 4 stars
8/20/13 Suzanne I have watched this movie about 20 times. Love it! 5 stars
5/23/13 Jamie Loved this movie! 5 stars
9/02/11 the dork knight Something's deeply wrong when I'm eyeing Steenbergen and cringing at naked Bullock. 2 stars
7/22/11 art A HECK of a lot better than that LAME miss congeniality!,which isn't sayingmuch. 2 stars
3/04/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess The only funny moments came when Max was onscreen. More Max would have=better movie. 2 stars
2/02/11 claudia Fav scene: Bullock's chanting... hilarious! Love Alaska scenes! 4 stars
1/25/11 lily i really liked this film lots 4 stars
9/02/10 L. Slusarczyk All the really funny bits were in the previews. Catch it on cable at later d8 2 stars
8/18/10 Davidf Unfunny unfortunately as I love SB and wanted tit to be good 3 stars
1/20/10 Stanley Thai An above-average romantic comedy due to two fantastic leads. 3 stars
7/23/09 Toni Slit your wrists ladies if you're not married, only saving grace is the leads' charisma 2 stars
6/28/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Annoying illegal immigrant Ramon invades Alaska while Canadian editor stalked by ICE 1 stars
6/23/09 Kailee Amazing movie, funny with a great love story behind it 5 stars
6/22/09 kaz awesome chick flick 5 stars
6/20/09 Rio So packed with clichés that I could've gotten the story dead right without even seeing it. 1 stars
6/19/09 Ming I like this film...The stars in the show got chemistry. The film kind of funny 4 stars
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  19-Jun-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2009


  DVD: 13-Oct-2009

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