The romantic comedy genre is easy to dismiss for two reasons. The first is because almost by rote, they’re all the same, ending up with a boy and a girl in love. The second is because most directors and scriptwriters forget the most important element and fail to make them funny, relying instead on pretty but vapid leads and asides like the kooky man-hating best friend, embarrassing family member, gay co-worker, etc for laughs.
Occasionally you realise the genre can rise above the forgettable standards set by most films in it, and as The Proposal shows, only one thing can do so, and that’s people with chemistry who know how to be funny.
Last year’s ”What Happens in Vegas” had a similarly humdrum plot, but neither Ashton Kutcher nor Cameron Diaz were vacuous newbies coasting on their good looks and it showed, the pair zinging with chemistry and the comedy fresh.
”The Proposal” is the same. Ryan Reynolds has proven his comic timing and presence again and again in gradually bigger and better movies, and being a sixteen year veteran of the industry and having proven herself in comedy Sandra Bullock shines in the right role. While only marginally successful, the Miss Congeniality films showed comic subtlety and a willingness to look silly for laughs worthy of the best stand-up act. And with another excellent comedian to bounce off, her part in ”The Proposal” will remind you she’s the unsung Godmother of screen comedy.
The pair are naturals together as they play Margaret and Andrew, the former a scary, ”Devil Wears Prada”-style editor of a publishing company and the latter her ambitious but put-upon assistant. Too busy to bother with tedious details like the repeated calls from her immigration lawyer, Margaret is suddenly told she’s overstayed her visa and is being deported to her native Canada.
On the spur of the moment she hatches a scheme, telling her bosses she and Andrew are getting married, a man for whom she barely speaks except to bark terrifying orders. To maintain the ruse to the department of immigration, the pair fly to Andrew’s rural Alaskan home where his loving family falls all over them with welcoming congratulations.
You’ll guess the rest including the funny set pieces with the cute puppy, the pair gradually learning more about each other and ice queen Margaret warming to the love all around her, but right down to Andrew’s final corny dash to get the girl, it contains the essential ingredient. Thanks to former choreographer-turned-director Fletcher, Reynolds and Bullock, it’s quite simply very funny.