Playing the stereotype of a cold, power-tripping female boss seems beneath Sandra Bullock's interests. Her appeal has always been that she's unpretentious and unassuming. Of course The Proposal has to be about her regaining that warm charisma.
To avoid losing her job as a Manhattan publishing executive and being deported to her home country of Canada, Margaret (Bullock) forces her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her. The hardest task is convincing Andrew's family that they're in love. You know how it ends, but stories like this have to play to expectation.
The Proposal is a traditional romantic comedy that wears "old-fashioned" as a compliment. Fine in theory, but it lacks the sharp wit of the films that inspired it. The fantasy of 1930s and '40s screwball comedies was in their sophistication. They presented desirable romance through seamless, funny writing that never compromised the stories' basic values. They didn't talk down; viewers had to look up to them. Recently only the Coen Brothers' Intolerable Cruelty got the formula right. In The Proposal, the line delivery from Bullock and Reynolds is too slow. The two would-be big comic scenes involve Margaret finding herself in compromising scenarios---the first set to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the second to Lil Jon. But her high-class attitude isn't established to the point where it would destroy her to be seen letting her hair down.
The pieces in The Proposal are in place, they just aren't fleshed out. Andrew's home life is meant to become Margaret's envy, yet director Anne Fletcher wastes actors like Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson and Betty White--creating no identifiable family dynamic.
Never pushing itself, The Proposal is harmless but charmless.