Oh Sandra Bullock, why do you do this to yourself? You’re past 40, and either time or Botox has been very good to you—you look lovely. You’ve been in plenty of successful movies and probably have a pretty comfortable life. You were kind of awesome in 2006’s unjustly forgotten Truman Capote movie Infamous. Yet here you are after more than a year away from the movies starring in The Proposal, the first of two romantic comedies you have on tap for 2009. Haven’t you moved past this yet? Hasn’t America?
Sadly, the answer is apparently no. We as a nation still hunger for Sandra Bullock rom-coms, and so she seems to have no choice but to appease us, dutifully engaging in dull banter and wacky misunderstandings with Ryan Reynolds, who at least has become less smarmy as his career has progressed. He’s solidly A-minus-list, and thus in the perfect place for this painful parade of insincere clichés, but Bullock has been through this kind of thing so many times that it’s more than a little pathetic.
You know the drill: They hate each other (she’s a ball-busting Manhattan book-publishing exec; he’s her beleaguered assistant), then circumstances force them into close proximity (threatened with deportation to her native Canada, she blackmails him into a sham engagement). To convince his family (and immigration authorities) that their relationship is real, Bullock’s Margaret and Reynolds’ Andrew end up in his small Alaska hometown, where the ancient Wendigo emerges from the woods and devours them all. No, just kidding: They bicker and then slowly reveal their vulnerabilities, and eventually fall in love. No Wendigos appear, unfortunately.
The Proposal moves mechanically through every expected rom-com beat, and not even the always-amusing Betty White (as Andrew’s wacky grandma) can add any life to it. As with director Anne Fletcher’s last assault on nonconformity, 27 Dresses, it argues that what every no-nonsense career woman needs is to lighten up and submit to the love of a good man. At this point, even Sandra Bullock knows that’s bullshit.