Monday, June 22, 2009

Bizarro Movie

The Proposal had all the elements required by a horrible movie. First, it's a comedy made by a major studio and most of those end up being written by a vast committee of mostly unfunny people. Second, the plot involves Sandra Bullock playing a sophisticated, successful intelligent woman who somehow got to her early 40s knowing nothing about men or romance. Third, it has Ryan Reynolds, a talented, likable actor who for the most part makes crappy, unlikable movies. So, how did The Proposal end up being fairly decent? Mainly, it's actually funny. Oh, it's not a great movie. The best word to describe it is pleasant. The plot is beyond predictable. I had the whole thing mapped out just from the advertising. However, the script was filled with funny lines and the actors delivered them in just the right way. There are even memorable scenes like when Sandra Bullock is trapped naked in a bathroom by a small white puppy (yes, you read that right).

The movie opens in a New York publishing firm in which Bullock's Margaret Tate character works as Executive Editor. Reynolds plays Andrew Paxton, Margaret's assistant. Margaret is feared by an office staff that always collectively put their heads down and at least pretend to work when she arrives, hoping not to draw her ire. Andrew basically lives as Margaret's slave in hopes that she will someday promote him to Editor. One day, Margaret's bosses call her up to their office and that's where we discover that Margaret the intelligent and competent editor and manager, is also Margaret the blithering idiot. It turns out that she's a Canadian citizen here on a work visa and she's about to be deported due to the fact that she thoroughly neglected various immigration processes. It's important to point out that, had she treated this aspect of her life with the ruthless focus and competence that she applies to every other aspect of her life, she wouldn't have had a problem but there also wouldn't have been a movie.

Margaret's life turns into a cliched sitcom plot when she gets the idea to marry Andrew so she can stay in the country. Andrew agrees when she promises to give him his long wanted promotion to editor and publish a book he wrote. This perfect plan quickly starts to fall apart when they encounter a zealous immigration official played by Denis O'Hare. Margaret and Andrew are hampered by the fact that this guy isn't radically stupid and is skeptical that a Margaret suddenly announces an engagement to an American citizen days before she's due to be deported. To pull off the charade, Margaret must now accompany Andrew on a planned visit to his family in Alaska to celebrate his grandmother's 90th birthday.

One of the other reasons this movie works as well as it does is that they hired veteran comic actors to play the supporting roles. Craig T. Nelson and Mary Steenburgen play Andrew's parents and Betty White plays his Grammy Ann. The Office cast member Oscar Nuñez also shows up as Ramone, a very funny jack of all trades (he works as a waiter, shop keep, exotic dancer and even officiates weddings). The movie from here on is basically a series of episodes, some of them quite amusing like when Margaret doesn't take seriously a warning to keep the family dog inside so it doesn't get snatched up by eagles or when Grammy Ann invite Margaret to chant with her in a Native American nature ritual and Margaret ends up doing gangsta rap.

I often worry about spoiling too much of a plot but that worry doesn't exist here. I can't imagine anyone even vaguely familiar with romantic comedies to be surprised by any element of the plot. The movie works because it has a few big laughs and several smaller chuckles. It didn't really need anything else. I doubt I'll remember it though I might a year from now when I'm watching its inferior ripoffs and quietly longing for The Proposal.

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