Without a hitch: Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock in The Proposal.
Sandra Bullock seems to have been out
of the multiplexes for several years, which isn’t quite accurate. Her
movies have been steadily released but her following simply didn’t
bother to show up en masse for the 2007 thriller Premonition, or the 2006 reunion with Speed star Keanu Reeves, The Lake House, or 2005’s Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. Take away Bullock’s turn in the 2004 ensemble drama Crash, and you’re left reaching back to 2002 for Two Weeks Notice and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood for anything that approaches true Sandy-mania.
So 2009 marks something of a second coming for the actress, thanks mostly to her romantic comedy The Proposal
(Touchstone/Disney; 108 minutes; PG-13; widescreen; 2009), which
amassed $163 million at last summer’s box office. Audiences didn’t
think much of Bullock’s spotty September comedy All About Steve, although her performance in the Nov. 20 real-life sports drama The Blind Side has been attracting some industry buzz. Yet The Proposal,
now on DVD from Touchstone Home Entertainment, which has already sold
nearly $50 million worth of the shiny platters, brings Bullock back to
her rom-com roots of yesteryear, as she displays her veteran comic
chops and gifts for spunky repartee and physical pratfalls.
And brother, does she need them, because The Proposal’s
too-familiar plot sports Rip Van Winkle-length whiskers. It’s the old
fake-marriage gambit, with Bullock playing witchy workaholic Margaret
Tate, an Anna Wintour-esque editor-in-chief for a Manhattan publishing
firm, who has let her visa lapse--which means she will probably be
deported to her native Canada unless she gets hitched fast. To her
rescue is Margaret’s long-suffering assistant, wanna-be author Andrew
Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), who agrees to the scheme with the caveats of a
hefty promotion and the publication of his own tome.
Lurking on the fringes is a federal
immigration agent (Denis O’Hare) who not only could deport Margaret to
the Great White North (with free health care and low crime, that’s a
bad thing?) but also send Andrew to the pokey for his part in the scam.
But not before Andrew takes his would-be bride back home to meet her
prospective in-laws--in the Alaskan seaport town of Sitka, no less.
Writer Peter Chiarelli catalogs the
expected developments as he brings Margaret and Andrew inevitably
closer together, while tossing in some familial angst with Andrew’s
estranged feelings toward his dad (Craig T. Nelson), providing a dash
of maternal warmth (courtesy of Mary Steenburgen as Andrew’s mom) and
generating some Northern Exposure-style ambiance. To further up the sitcom ante, Chiarelli makes room for feisty senior moments with Golden Girl Betty White as Andrew’s 90-years-young granny, while The Office’s Oscar Nunez likewise steals scenes as Sitka’s general store owner and part-time Chippendale.
The surprises are few, but that doesn’t stop director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses)
from maintaining a bouncy pace, nor does it take away from the
on-screen sparks between the movie’s leading players. Reynolds has an
affable Everyman quality reminiscent of Jack Lemmon during his early
1960s sex-comedy reign, while Bullock has enough slapstick skills that
she can maximize even the teeniest bits of business. (Watch her
character drop to her knees on a Manhattan sidewalk for the actual
proposal-as-business arrangement, then try to stand up again on her
tottering heels like a newborn colt.) You know what to expect from The Proposal,
right down to the stars’ celebrated (but fairly mild) nude scene, but
at least you can appreciate the engaging chemistry lessons at work.
Touchstone’s DVD offers a letterboxed
(2.35:1 ratio) image that preserves director of photography Oliver
Stapleton’s swanky widescreen visuals. The audio commentary track from
director Fletcher and screenwriter Chiarelli is a chatty affair. Both
frequently cackle over their own asides (“Listen to the words,”
Chiarelli deadpans about his script, “let them sweep you away.”), while
doling out praise to their stars, pointing out cameos from family
members as well as the film’s various locations and moments of comic
improvisation, and revealing a “turtlehead” special effects shot:
Reynolds’ head from a different visual had to be superimposed over his
body during post-production because they lacked the needed footage.
There’s also about seven minutes devoted
to outtakes and general hamming-it-up, along with three minutes’ worth
of two deleted scenes with optional commentary. The major extra is a
seven-minute alternate ending, with Fletcher and Chiarelli explaining
that the sequence, while broadly funny, set the wrong tone as the
Both parties blame the 2007 Writers
Guild of America strike for rushing into this original finale, which
was substantially reshot after the strike ended, although Reno 911’s Niecy Nash as a Tazer-toting flight attendant was eliminated from the final cut. And while Betty White gets one of The Proposal’s
biggest laughs when she’s feeling up Bullock in a wedding dress (“It’s
like an Easter egg hunt!”), there are no Easter eggs on the
standard-issue DVD, although one is supposedly hidden on the Blu-ray