Though viewed as a fluffy, lightweight genre, it takes a lot to get romantic comedy right. First and foremost are endearing performances and good chemistry. This, The Proposal (rated PG-13 for language and sexual content) offers in spades.
As hard-charging career woman Margaret Tate and her overworked assistant Andrew Paxton, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds take the typical corporate stereotype and turn it hilariously on its head. Margaret may be tough as nails, but, hey, she's still Sandy Bullock, our generation's Doris Day, so she's also somehow lovable. Andrew may be boss-pecked, but he's still Ryan Reynolds, so his caustic wit keeps him from ever seeming effeminate.
Above all, despite the fact that (for once) the leading lady is a good 10 years older than the leading man, we have no doubt these two characters could, given the right circumstances, fall in love. Unfortunately, those circumstances never materialize.
Because it is fundamentally a two-hour escape, a good rom com need only maintain a standard of semi-realism. Unfortunately, when Margaret and Andrew agree to a sham marriage (she to avoid being deported, he to secure a promotion) and fly to Alaska to meet his family, the movie pushes far beyond the bounds of most viewers' willingness to suspend disbelief.
To start with is an immigration officer who has time to hound all over the country a Canadian who poses no security threat. Then there's the wedding thrown together in a day by Andrew's mother (Mary Steenburgen) and grandmother (Betty White). Perhaps it's believable that these two ladies could wrangle a lily garland and tea light paradise out of a barn in less than 12 hours. But gourmet catering and a full roster of guests as well? Even for a genre that thrives on unimaginable loveliness in record time, it's too much.
It's quite a testament to Bullock and Reynolds that despite all the implausible frippery, they still make you root for their characters. Mostly they make you root for them to be paired together again in a better movie.