Anne Fletcher’s The Proposal (2009) is an exceedingly charmless romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock as a wicked-lady executive-editor named Margaret Tate who contrives an engagement-of-convenience with her put-upon assistant (Ryan Reynolds) as a means of avoiding deportation to that most hostile of homelands: Canada. In order to assuage the suspicions of a sceptical officer (is this movie really a biting critique of US immigration policy, I wonder?) the pair head to the Reynolds character's hometown in Alaska and perpetuate the charade to his family, all the while falling in love for real.
Though familiar enough, The Proposal’s premise (an amalgam of Peter Weir’s Greencard  and Frank Oz’s Housesitter ) would seem to yield a bit of promise, but a very poor script and uninspired direction sink the film fairly early on; and, ultimately, the movie doesn’t so much end as give up. (It doesn’t quite plumb the depths of Amy Heckerling’s truly horrible I Could Never Be Your Woman , but that’s hardly a recommendation.) Bullock shows a bit of spark in her initial scenes - she seems to enjoy playing bitchy and has fun with the literary name-dropping - but once Margaret lets her hair down (yes, literally), she simply resorts to unfunny shtick, particuarly in a cringe-making dancing-in-the-woods sequence. (The grisliest aspect, though, is that her workaholic character has to be taught a lesson in the value of Family. This is not, one senses, a movie that Susan Faludi would enjoy.) This was my first exposure to Ryan Reynolds and I’m afraid I found him to be a robotic presence. But then none of the supporting cast - from a grimacing Mary Steenburgen to a meant-to-be-adorable Betty White - are able to distinguish themselves here. The family dog -a Samoyed named Kevin - is, by default, the star of the movie.
I’m baffled as to why the contemporary Hollywood romantic comedy has become so cheap, so lame, so inherently feel-bad. Without falling too much into 1990s nostalgia (an unfortuante temptation, it seems, as one hurtles towards 30), I’d argue that the rom-coms of that period (Sleepless In Seattle, French Kiss, Only You, One Fine Day) possessed a bit of wit and style and charm, for all their ultimate adherence to formula. (The last one I recall really enjoying was Paul Weitz’s In Good Company (2004), which satisfyingly melded the genre with corporate comedy, had likeable, well-crafted characters, and unpredictable plot developments.) Neither funny nor in the least romantic, Fletcher’s film is one Proposal it would be wise to refuse.