“The Proposal” won’t catch any bouquets for originality, but in terms of a bended-knee pitch for the affections of women — including Ryan Reynolds’ boyish charms, a hip granny and even a beyond-adorable puppy — this romantic comedy pretty much pulls out all the stops. Mostly, this safe and calculated Reynolds-Sandra Bullock pairing constitutes savvy counterprogramming, what with the “Transformers” sequel about to invade theaters and “The Hangover” mostly hanging onto men. So even if the movie stumbles a bit on the way to the altar, the net result should leave Disney celebrating reasonably happy returns.
Director Anne Fletcher (“27 Dresses”) is working from a script by Peter Chiarelli, but the story draws from so many sources the whole exercise has the feel of a committee effort. Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a book editor so tyrannical — holy “The Devil Wears Prada,” Batman — that the message “It’s here!” is instantly dispatched when she enters the office, as her minions hop to appear as busy as possible.
Anticipating Margaret’s needs is the job of her assistant Andrew (Reynolds), but he’s thrown for a loop when Margaret — a Canadian suddenly facing deportation — tells him they must get married, a maneuver that will not only keep her in the U.S. but save his job. Andrew blackmails her right back with the threat of backing out, and before you know it, they’re flying off to his hometown in Alaska to break the news to his family — and throw an officious immigration agent (Denis O’Hare) off the scent.
So “Green Card” segues into “Northern Exposure,” as the starched, high-heeled Manhattan-dweller Margaret is exposed to Andrew’s colorful clan, including his aloof father (Craig T. Nelson), loving mom (Mary Steenburgen) and wacky, about-to-turn-90 grandma (Betty White, still more than capable of stealing every scene she’s in).
Inevitably, a thaw begins between the assistant and the boss he dubbed “Satan’s mistress” — one helped along by seeing each other in various stages of undress, which is sure to elicit whoops from the appropriate demographics. For Reynolds, that will only bolster his romantic-comedy credentials, as he and Bullock deftly capture the requisite awkwardness of having to deceive those around them. (Notably, Bullock found herself in a similar predicament in “While You Were Sleeping.”)
Although there’s plenty of rustic scenery (with Massachusetts as a stand-in for Palin country), prolonging the buildup eventually leads to some tired and silly flourishes. Fletcher started out as a choreographer and even gives Bullock a chance to show off some amusing dance gyrations, but all that nifty footwork becomes a bit more frantic down the home stretch.
By then, though, “The Proposal” has generated enough goodwill to get by — and there’s even a parting shot of White holding that fluffy, snow-colored puppy. In that respect, it’s difficult not to admire a project that not only knows what’s expected of it, but precisely what its assets are.