RATING |

When you examine this summer's movie lineup, you detect an underserved demographic.

For guys of all ages, there's "Star Trek," "Terminator," and "The Hangover," "Land of the Lost," "Up," and "Drag Me to Hell."

For the ladies, there's . . . well, how do you gals feel about robots that can turn into cars?

Hollywood tries to balance the scales just a bit this week with the romantic comedy "The Proposal." Sandra Bullock portrays a foreign-born publishing tyrant who ropes her overworked assistant (Ryan Reynolds) into a marriage of convenience in order to gain citizenship and keep her big-time New York job.

The leads are appealing, the material familiar - it adds a "Front Page" romantic angle to "The Devil Wears Prada," and reworks ideas from "Green Card."

It's even poised to play around with a few themes from the Wertmuller classic "Swept Away," in which a rich woman and her servant switch power roles when marooned on a island.

"The Proposal," though, isn't nearly that ambitious, although the script does contrive to put them on an island in Alaska.

Alaska's home to Reynolds' family - doting mom (Mary Steenburgen) disapproving dad (Craig T. Nelson) and nutty grandma (Betty White). Bullock has to meet and learn about the family in order to pass muster with immigration.

The movie fools around with "Northern Exposure"-type jokes about Alaskan eccentrics - but there's one Latino guy who serves as caterer, merchant, postman, preacher and exotic dancer, a joke that's never funny, and never less funny than when he takes off his pants and sticks his bum in poor Bullock's face.

Less care is given to the all-important relationship between the two leads, who seem stiffer and less engaging than they do during their publicity tour of the entertainment shows.

Bullock looks slightly uncomfortable in the role of nut-cracking she-devil, and neither she nor the filmmakers seem certain how to play her age.

In life, she's 44 to Reynolds' 28, and though somebody makes a wisecrack about her character's comparatively ripe vintage, "The Proposal" is generally careful not to touch the issue.

At Bullock's suggestion?

She has that weird, lacquered look that Tom Hanks has in "Angels and Demons," like somebody in the makeup truck overdid it with the spackle.

There's certainly nothing wrong with the rest of her, as Bullock demonstrates in a slapstick semi-nude scene with Reynolds. It's typical of the movie's taste in gags - Bullock falls out of a movie boat, an eagle carries off the family poodle.

Apparently, in any kind of meet-the-parents scenario (see also "Easy Virtue"), the family pet must be mangled.