The Proposal

June 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White
Directed by: Anne Fletcher (“27 Dresses”)
Written by: Pete Chiarelli (debut)

It’s fairly easy to compare the new Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy “The Proposal” to the 1990 film “Green Card” starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. Both are conventional stories about two people scamming the immigration system so one can stay in the U.S. Both have lead characters with natural chemistry.

But where ‘The Proposal” differs drastically from the Peter Weir-directed rom-com of 20 years ago is the dynamic in which the two lead characters’ relationship is written. While Depardieu and MacDowell are portrayed as strangers who are basically doing each other a favor, Bullock and Reynolds have an everyday working rapport that disrupts the already sitcom-like storyline.

In “The Proposal,” Bullock plays Margaret Tate, an icy New York book publisher who learns she is being deported to Canada because she failed to renew her citizenship. Desperate to stay in the country, she turns to her always-reliable personal assistant Andrew Paxon (Reynolds) who hopes his role as her whipping boy (he goes on latté and tampon runs for her) will only last until the company publishes his manuscript.

When Margaret blackmails Andrew into marrying her so she can get legal status, both see a way to get what they want. But when a suspicious immigration officer questions the veracity of their engagement, the quasi-couple is forced to verify their relationship by traveling to Andrew’s home in Alaska to tell his family that he is about to marry the boss he has always complained about.

What is it about the state of Alaska that screenwriters find so humorous that they have to set their story there? Renée Zellweger did the same thing in last year’s unpleasant romantic comedy “New in Town.” Here, Bullock and Reynolds team up with the Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Oscar Nuñez, and the charming Betty White to slush through the snow one predictable step after another. Since Margaret and Andrew have known each other for so long, there is no sense of discovery between the two although they are supposed to be learning about one other during their trip so they can pass a mandatory couple’s test administered by U.S. Immigration. There should be cause for concern and at least the impression of anxiousness in these characters, but instead first-time screenwriter Pete Chiarelli executes everything so fluffy there’s not much to stand on other than a couple of amusing performances.

Along with former “Golden Girl” White’s rare and funny appearance, it’s really Reynolds’ familiar humor that keeps the film from taking a dive. Even when Reynolds takes on a role that has him portray a more sensitive character like Andrew, his deeply-rooted sardonic traits peer out through his boyish eyes. It really is the highlight of the film and keeps Bullock’s character from blowing up into more of a caricature than it already is.

If rom-coms are the flavor you like, you can do a lot worse than “The Proposal.” It’s harmless, second-rate material just good enough for a date movie with a girl you necessarily don’t want to impress with your keen cinematic taste.

Step Brothers

July 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen
Directed by: Adam McKay (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy”)
Written by: Adam McKay (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”) and Will Ferrell (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”)

They’ve only been in two movies together, but watching Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in their new film “Step Brothers” will make you wonder if they were created in the same agar-filled Petri dish or once connected at the hip.

It’s not only the fact that they have the same dollish, curly hair or that they both look like identical geeks in argyle sweaters on the movie poster. Ferrell and Reilly have the same offbeat comedic timing and when put together makes for one eccentric metronome of humor.

In “Step Brothers,” 30-something-year-old Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) is not too thrilled when his mother (Mary Steenburgen) falls in love with Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins) and decides to marry and move in with him and his 30-something-year-old son Dale (John C. Reilly).

The boys, er, men quickly butt heads as they invade each other’s personal space. Basically, they hate each other from the get-go. Not only is their respect parent stealing the other away from them, both their mother and father are beginning to recognize that if they don’t make Brennan and Dale grow up, get jobs, and move out, they are going to be stuck with them for the rest of their lives.

Although the sibling rivalry/blood feud lasts for a good portion of the film (there are some great one-liners like, “I’m Dale, but you have to call me dragon” and “It’s like masturbating in a time machine”), the boys find out they have more in common then they first thought. Similarities in their personality take shape when both realize they share the same dislike for Brennan’s younger, douchebag-of-a-brother Derek (Adam Scott), whose seemingly perfect life is actually quite creepy.

While Ferrell and Reilly manage to keep the laughs coming for the first half of the film, Ferrell as a screenwriter once again proves that he can’t stop a joke from going on too long before it loses steam. At points, Ferrell’s humor is like the awkward silence or poorly extended scenes during parts of “The Family Guy.” You know there is a great comedic moment buried somewhere in the clutter, but its layers are far too thick to claw out.

“Step Brothers” is as juvenile as a film can get, even more so since the juveniles here are played by grown men. Once you get past all the horseplay and back to the short and offensive dialogue, there is some fun to be had with Ferrell and Reilly rampaging through the film like a fat kid through a candy store.