Let's Make a Deal 

The Proposal You Can Refuse

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Stuck at the same dance, just in a different dress: The Proposal is an astonishingly—brazenly—formulaic romantic comedy. On this spin it's Margaret (Sandra Bullock, an alternative to Jennifer Aniston) as the independent (but deep down just lonely) New York woman who first abuses and then falls in love with Andrew (Ryan Reynolds who, incidentally, holds the distinction of having been the male lead in the only recent romantic film that didn't make my boyfriend's balls crawl up inside his stomach cavity: Definitely, Maybe. Oops, there they went again.).

The contrived set-up is that Margaret is Andrew's nightmarish boss, who blackmails him into marrying her to avoid deportation to Canada. They are then subjected to a farcical weekend at his family's Alaskan home, setting up the city-girl-in-the-country humor and, later, her appealingly loosened-up transformation. (Amazing how the female lead always packs for this turning point, sneaking that one pair of flat shoes and pants into trunks otherwise full of inappropriate pencil skirts and Louboutin stilettos.) And it certainly doesn't hurt the lubrication of inevitable things when Margaret arrives to discover her supposed victim is actually the heir to an immense family fortune—it never, ever does.

Crucial to the romcom witches' brew are the comedic foils: Spunky grandmas and adorable, naughty little dogs both work nicely for this, so here, one of each are deployed. Betty White as Grandma Annie doles out the compulsory eccentricity and impish perverted-ness with as much aplomb as is expected from a veteran of The Golden Girls. (But the American Eskimo puppy? Now that was well played.) The lovely Mary Steenburgen and (Coach!) Craig T. Nelson also show up as Andrew's likeable (stinking rich, but totally salt of the earth) parents, yet there is barely an original moment in the movement of the entire tableau.

Like any PG-13 erotica should, The Proposal hits a few of its marks, and you may find yourself torn between your own intelligence and the twinkle in Ryan Reynolds' eye. There's no real shame in this—during illness, say, or drinking alone—but this is one film that's best left for such weaker moments.

The Proposal
Rated PG-13 · 108 min.
Official Site: www.myspace.com/proposalmovie
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Pete Chiarelli
Producer: David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Denis O'Hare, Malin Akerman, Oscar Nuñez, Aasif Mandvi and Niecy Nash

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