In recent years the romantic comedy, or rom-com, has cross-fertilized with other genres, giving it new vigor. Rom-com and buddy movie mated to produce the bromance, the platonic love story between men (I Love You, Man). Last week, romance and caveman comedy hooked up to produce what you might call bro-magnon mischief (The Hangover).
This week - to comparably tasty effect - rom-com and slapstick farce conjoin to deliver the rom-romp in The Proposal. Hilarious fun, it stars Sandra Bullock as a needling publisher, Ryan Reynolds as a human pincushion and Guy Friday, and a green-card problem as the plot device.
Inside her publishing house Margaret Tate (Bullock) inspires fear. To alert the assistant pool that she is on the march, Andrew (Reynolds) sends a global e-mail, "The witch is on her broom." So busy is Margaret firing underlings that the publisher, who happens to be Canadian, forgets to file the paperwork for her green card.
On the verge of deportation, she blackmails Andrew into marrying her. He blackmails her back: She'll get U.S. citizenship if he gets a promotion. And off together they go to Alaska for the 90th birthday of his beloved Grandma (Betty White).
The setup is formula, but Bullock and Reynolds supply surprising fizz and kick. Their characters compete to see who can toss the most withering barbs without moving his/her lips, bringing new meaning to the word deadpan.
These are two gifted physical comedians at the top of their game. When Bullock minces purposefully in 6-inch stilettos, or when Reynolds - a hard-bodied 6-footer - gets small and soft like a mini-marshmallow, it's funny. Not chick-flick funny - across-the-board, flat-out, fall-down funny.
Anne Fletcher, choreographer-turned-director (Step Up, 27 Dresses), uses her characters' body language for maximum comic impact. Especially in the scene where Bullock, freshly out of the shower and hunting for a towel, runs smack into Reynolds, stripped down for his after-workout ablutions.
Peter Chiarelli's script squarely hits the funny bone. In part, it's because the stars are cast against type and gender. Likable Bullock finds her sour spot as the unlikable Margaret; secure Reynolds is dithering fun as the insecure Andrew. That Margaret has the professional power Andrew craves helps make the film fresh.
White plays a silver-haired version of her Golden Girls character, a foxy grandma three beats ahead of everyone else. She gets laughs without being undignified, something that cannot be said of supporting actor Oscar Nuñez. He plays Ramone, a man who, it would seem, performs virtually every job in Sitka, Alaska, and is howlingly, spittingly, without-a-shred-of-dignity hysterical.EndText