x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

The Proposal

Sandra Bullock's latest rom-com is predictable, lacklustre and chemistry-free - and it's not any fun to boot.

Sandra Bullock looks good, doesn't she? With that perfectly taut Hollywood brow, some might say that she looks far younger than a woman of 45. But let's be honest, she doesn't look 33, so playing a part in which she has to simper next to the boyish Ryan Reynolds demands almost total suspension of disbelief from a kindly audience.

True, she is his boss. Bullock stars as Margaret Tate, a high-powered, suit-wearing publishing witch who, initially, enjoys the services of Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) as her assistant. He fetches her soy-milk cinnamon lattes, reminds her gently to call her immigration lawyer back and cancels plans to visit his family for his grandmother's 90th birthday when he is told of weekend work plans. Unhappily for Margaret, her fire breathing has to stop when she is told by her bosses that her visa has been denied and that US immigration is planning to immediately push her back over the border to Canada.

Given the title of the film, and a precedent set by Green Card, can any of you possibly guess what comes next? That's right, folks, poor old Andrew - who barely looks old enough to have graduated - is wheeled in as her fiancé. The choreographer-turned-director Anne Fletcher (ominously, of 27 Dresses fame) takes the opportunity to develop a pantomime cast from here and runs with it. First up is the dastardly immigration lawyer Mr Gilbertson (Denis O'Hare), whose threats to ruin this happy couple fall on deaf ears. To make a show of it, the pair head deep into Alaska for the aforementioned 90th birthday, which gives Fletcher the opportunity to pop Bullock in a pair of high heels and try to cajole laughs from us as she flails in the rugged, mountainous landscape. There are pine trees, lakes and eagles; you have half an eye on the lookout for a gun-toting Sarah Palin until you learn that the film was in fact shot in Rockport, Massachusetts.

Ah well, the plot is already riddled with unlikely developments. What's one more problem? Well, there are several more. Paxton's family are willing to overlook the age of their son's instantaneous new girlfriend, as well as the fact that they have only ever heard torturous things about her as his boss. Then there's a scene in which Margaret's phone is snatched by an eagle, an excruciating moment when both boss and employee run into each other naked, and a bit where Grandma Annie dons some kind of hybrid bird costume to chant around a bonfire in the woods.

Everything, of course, culminates when the big day is brought forward to the weekend at the request of both parents and grandmother. Mr Gilbertson himself watches with an experienced, cruel smile from the audience as Margaret leaves it right up until the crucial moment to confess their woebegone plot. There is more suspense in Toy Story. Of course, there follows the inevitable dawning on both Margaret and Andrew that for all their bickering, that wholesome Alaskan air has gone to their heads. Would you believe it, they've gone and fallen in love and want to genuinely get married. Oh, the deep irony of it all. "So let me see if I've got this right. You two are engaged again?" asks the indefatigable Mr Gilbertson.

On the upside, there is a touch of Lucille Ball to Bullock, who manages to covey emotions, such as surprise and sadness, despite that unmovable face. And Reynolds does deadpan well at points too, along with a youthful air of gormlessness that has followed him from his Van Wilder days. But together they generally look awkward. Most importantly, while we all know the outcome of your average Hollywood romantic comedy, for their part they're supposed to lighten our lives with some romance, preferably chucked in with a bit of comedy. And The Proposal's lack of chemistry and plodding script doesn't hold that end of the bargain at all.

smoneycoutts@thenational.ae