Sandra Bullock returns to sparkling form in Anne Fletcher’s romantic comedy, which proves that the path to true love can sometimes begin with some good old-fashioned blackmail.
The Speed star shot to fame in the mid 1990s becoming America’s favourite girl next door actress but following a string of lacklustre releases, in every genre, including a fluffy romantic comedy, supernatural shenanigans across space and time, brought her back down to Earth with a bump.
The smiling stars resurgence is finally realised in her latest effort, The Proposal.
Essaying the boss from hell, Bullock plies her innate charm and impeccable comic timing to endear her character to us, even when she is engaged in shocking behaviour, such as baiting a bird of prey with a helpless family pet.
On-screen chemistry with impossibly buff leading man, Ryan Reynolds, sizzles and threatens to melt the snowy Alaskan locales, including a hilarious centrepiece sequence of gratuitous nudity which sees the two stars fall on top of one another in their birthday suits.
In the hallowed corridors of Ruick & Hunt Publishing, New York book editor Margaret Tate (Bullock) is feared by one and all including her long-suffering assistant Andrew (Reynolds), who knows he will be the first person to feel her wrath if coffee isn’t on her desk when she arrives.
The staff hate her, as does Andrew, but he suffers her mental abuse hoping that one day she might publish his début novel and he can pursue his dream of becoming a writer.
In a shocking turn of events, Margaret is threatened with deportation to Canada when her visa expires.
In order to stay in the country, she forces Andrew to pose as her fiancé and walk her down the aisle, with the understanding they can get divorced a few months later when she has her citizenship, presuming they can fool the wily immigration officer (Denis O’Hare) assigned to their case.
As part of the ruse, she accompanies him home to Sitka, Alaska, for a family get-together with his parents (Mary Steenburgen, Craig T Nelson), grandmother (Betty White) and old flame (Malin Akerman).
During the flight, Margaret grills her assistant on her personal details.
"What am I allergic to?" she snaps. "Pine-nuts and the full spectrum of human emotions," he replies tersely.
Seeing Andrew in his home surroundings, ice queen Margaret begins to thaw and the faux-mance kindles genuine attraction.
The Proposal is a scatological treat that hits more than it misses, despite some unnecessary comic interludes with Andrew’s dotty grandma and unexotic dancer Ramone (Oscar Nunez).
Bullock takes Peter Chiarelli’s screenplay by the scruff and wrings every giggle out of it, then finds some tears too at the crucial moment.
Reynolds matches her every goof of the way, showing his sensitive side with an unconventional final declaration that plucks the heartstrings beautifully: "Three days ago, I loathed you. I used to dream about you getting hit by a cab..."
STAR RATING: ***