The Proposal is a lot like the town it’s set in: simple and clichéd, yet refreshing. Sitka, Alaska is trouble-free, untouched by most modern technology, and packed with people who’ve known each other all their lives. Similarly, The Proposal is uncomplicated and provides the viewer with exactly what one would expect. You don’t go to Sitka unless you’re looking to get away from it all and have some quiet time, and you don’t watch The Proposal unless you’re hell-bent on a romantic comedy. As long as you know what you’re getting into, The Proposal will deliver.
Sandra Bullock is Margaret Tate, a boss lady who’d make your ruthless superior seem more like a little old grandma. Ryan Reynolds plays her personal assistant, Andrew Paxton. Andrew has a passion for publishing and will do whatever it takes to become a book editor, even if that means addressing every beck and call of "Satan’s Mistress." Andrew finally gets the upper hand in their relationship when Margaret, a Canadian native, is at risk of being deported. In a desperate attempt to keep her job, she tells the upper management that deportation will not be necessary because she’s going to marry a U.S. citizen...Andrew.
Turns out, convincing an immigration agent who’s onto their scheme that their marriage is based on love is much more difficult than they thought. A test to determine how well they know each other is no problem for Andrew. After three years of working under Margaret, he knows every detail about her, down to her coffee preference. Conversely, Margaret knows nothing about Andrew except his eagerness to please. So, it’s off to Alaska to celebrate Andrew’s grandmother’s 90th birthday, have some get-to-know-you time, and convince his family that Margaret is the woman of his dreams.
It’s obvious we’re bombarded with cookie-cutter romantic comedies. The fact is, a large majority of moviegoers love them and they earn studios a pretty penny. While each romcom deserves its own impartial review, it’s nearly impossible to assess one without comparing it to its competitors. In The Proposal’s case, a little compare-and-contrast is beneficial. It may be a run-of-the-mill stereotype, but The Proposal is a fresh take on the generic love story.
It’s nice to see a story that’s not completely preposterous. I don’t know a thing about immigration laws, but beyond the legal regulations, Andrew and Margaret’s situation is feasible and engaging. Many can relate to the desperate measures one will take for the opportunity to move up in the working world. You’ll be rooting for Andrew when he forces Margaret to take a knee and make a formal proposal, which includes the guarantee of Andrew being promoted to editor. Even once the "couple" is in Alaska, their calamities are relatable.
Sadly the characters of The Proposal aren’t as effective as the plot. We’re beaten senseless with the point that Margaret is a raging you-know-what. Even with her colorful sarcasm, she’s a dimensionless character. Cynicism is really all there is to her, and even when she makes her turnaround – come on, you knew it would happen – it’s far from endearing. Andrew has a wider range of emotions but comes across just as blah. At first he’s the poor little workhorse you’re pulling for, but once the circumstances are in his favor, he becomes rather mean and you lose compassion for him. By the time they’re in Alaska you’ll feel more sympathy for Margaret than Andrew.
The supporting characters don’t provide much support. Mary Steenburgen comes out on top as Andrew’s loving mother. There’s not much more to her character, but the movie doesn’t really call for it. Betty White, on the other hand, is way over the top. She has her funny moments but for the most part is ridiculous. Did we really need to see her doing her little rain dance in the woods? It’s amusing seeing Bullock singing and getting down to Lil John’s “Get Low,” but it certainly doesn’t justify an otherwise completely unnecessary scene. Andrew’s father (Craig T. Nelson) is another character that doesn’t quite fit. He’s got a lot of baggage that is never explained enough to be effective. On a brighter note, Malin Akerman performs well as Andrew’s ex-girlfriend. It would have been nice to see more of Andrew’s relationship with her and less with his father.
Character nitpicking aside, The Proposal is what it is and can be enjoyed for just that, an amusing love story. If you go in knowing what you’re going to get and don’t expect to end up with much more than a silly grin on your face, the film is quite enjoyable. As I said earlier, The Proposal can only benefit from being compared to similar films. On the Sandra Bullock-romcom meter, The Proposal ranks much higher than the lot.
The deleted scenes are nothing great. I’d like to have seen more of Nelson’s character, but the first deleted scene featuring his character and Steenburgen’s is unnecessary. The same goes for the second deleted scene, which is really just an extension of the one in which Andrew takes Margaret to get a new cell phone and then to an Internet café. In terms of the optional commentary, director Annie Fletcher and writer Peter Chiarelli say absolutely nothing that would justify turning it on.
I’ve got a major problem with alternate endings. A movie just cannot have two endings! Watching an alternate ending spoils the one in the final cut. Well, if you’d like to check this one out anyway, you’ll be glad to see it was swapped. First off, it’s intolerably slow and long, and secondly, it’s poorly edited. (I’d like to think the segment would have been fine-tuned if it were chosen to end then film.) Commentary by Fletcher and Chiarelli is much more interesting in this instance. There’s some scene description, but they dedicate the majority of their commentary to talking about the production process and even touching upon how the writer’s strike affected the film’s conclusion.
Thankfully, the feature commentary contains far less scene description that I imagined. Fletcher and Chiarelli couldn’t help but throw some unnecessary explanations, but for the most part, they provide loads of interesting information. When they’re not giving you a play-by-play, they share great insight and anecdotes.
I had to save the best bonus material for last, naturally -- the bloopers. “Set Antics: Outtakes and Other Absurdities From The Proposal” isn’t as funny as I’d hoped it be, but it suffices. Much of the piece is hosted by Aasif Mandvi, who plays Bob Spaulding, the man who’ll take Margret’s job if she’s sent back to Canada. There’s nothing laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s nice to see some candid footage from the set. The funniest outtake definitely goes to Betty White. When you’ve got to sneeze, you’ve got to sneeze!