Never underestimate the pleasure of a screwball comedy, that ephemeral inspiration involving a reversal of the usual sexual roles. Thus, the woman is the arrogant, ambitious, potent personality, while the man is the self-deprecating ‘victim’ of her demands. Eventually, after a predicament, she gets ‘humbled’ as love prevails. The challenge is to find an actress who can be gleefully funny and glamorous at the same time…someone like earthy, exuberant Sandra Bullock, a master of physical farce and comic timing.
Margaret Tate (Bullock) is the romantic heroine, yet she’s clearly not someone anyone would want to be around very long. She’s a demanding, hard-nosed, high-powered book editor (shades of “The Devil Wears Prada”) whom her beleaguered assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) calls “Satan’s mistress,” describing her as “the dark overlord of my life.” Which is why he’s stunned to find himself suddenly engaged to marry her. It seems that her visa’s lapsed and when she’s threatened with deportation to her native Canada, she pretends to be engaged to him and ready to meet his family. Unbeknownst to her, the Paxtons are a wealthy, overprotective clan living in rustic Sitka, Alaska. Frustrated Andrew will only agree to the charade if Margaret promises him a promotion, but an immigration official (Denis O’Hare) is not so easily duped and frantic complications inevitably arise.
First-time screenwriter Peter Chiarelli injects delightfully sarcastic love/hate banter into the formulaic plot and predictable outcome, while choreographer-turned-director Anne Fletcher’s (“27 Dresses”) inspired casting elevates the amusement factor beyond expectations. There’s real chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds as they gamely handle the awkward embarrassment of the requisite ‘naked/wet’ scene with aplomb. The supporting cast of Malin Akerman, Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, Oscar Nunez and, above all, scene-stealing TV icon Betty White as droll, just-turning-90 year-old “Grandma Annie,” oozes bucolic charm, even though Massachusetts is a lame location substitute for picturesque Alaska. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Proposal” is a laugh-out-loud, sparkly 7, offering timely, timeless fun and a fluffy puppy.