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Sandra Bullock's Clowning Glory

There is a moment in Two Weeks Notice when Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock's soon-to-be-ex boss, lists what he'll miss about her. "She's funny...of course, not deliberately," he muses, hitting the Bullock's-eye on why she makes us laugh. She just goes about her character's business -- an FBI agent posing as a pageant contestant in Miss Congeniality, a public-interest lawyer in drag as a real-estate developer's counsel in Notice, a preoccupied mother pretending to be a free spirit in Forces of Nature -- and locates the humor of a square peg forcing itself into round hole.

I like Bullock, on screens this weekend in The Proposal, as a Canadian-born career woman who needs to get married to a U.S. citizen (her assistant, Ryan Reynolds), so she can keep her job. She's hilarious, he's hilarious, it's hilarious. And the funny thing about Bullock is that she's awfully good and undeliberate at the dramatic moments, too, so affecting as Harper Lee in Infamous and as the homicide detective in Murder by Numbers. Heck, I even enjoyed her in The Lake House, a preposterously involving time-warp romance between her and her Speed co-star, Keanu Reeves.

Bullock, 44,  has been a star for 15 years, which in actress years is like a half century. She's made some real dreck (Hope Floats, anyone? Practical Magic?), yet I wince when cinephiles like David Thomson write her off as "a household name who has yet to be in a vital movie." Apart from Diane Keaton and Drew Barrymore, is there a funnier female clown currently working?