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The Proposal review

Thinner than a Twiglet and glossier than a conker, Sandra Bullock lies the lag for it, 40-ish womanhood in this high-end New York romcom, but even the adorable princess of pratfalls can’t get much spin on this smart but saggy, would-be screwball tale.

As Canadian publishing uber-bitch Margaret, blackmailing her amiable young assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) into agreeing to marry her when she’s threatened with deportation, Bullock waves her Blackberry Devil Wears Prada-style, but somehow lacks the necessary cut-throat conviction.

She’s on safer, albeit sappier, ground with the predictable fish-out-of water schtick that director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses) gifts her for the couple’s nuptial trip to Andrew’s dysfunctional Alaskan family, goofily busting dance moves through a shamanic ritual, or fending off a small-town male stripper with exquisite embarrassment.

Sandy may have the lion’s share of screen time, but it’s Reynolds, deploying that deadpan charm he’s been honing since Van Wilder, who threatens to steal the movie. His crisp comedic delivery puts the charge into their sexy, snarky bickering: “You are allergic to coconut shampoo. And the full spectrum of human emotions.”

First-time screenwriter Peter Chiarelli’s dialogue has a wry Big Apple zing that easily outstrips execrable recent odd-couple offerings like What Happens In Vegas or The Accidental Husband. Alas, this deftness cruelly gets up hopes that are then dashed by the film’s by-the-numbers family feuding, its mildly inane immigration imbroglio and a flabby, saccharine wind-down.

Sadly, those long-awaited heartfelt moments turn out as soggy as its boss-vs-drone office sniping was snappy. But chick-flick aficionados will eat it all up, especially the pretty pair’s wet’n’wild slapstick nude scene. Although what they’ll end up applauding is Betty White’s raunchy, conniving Grandma Annie, her razor-sharp timing proving she’s an ever-Golden Girl.

A pedigree cast, fun premise and punchy dialogue make Bullock’s return to romantic comedy look a great catch, and Reynolds is sharper than a diamond solitaire. Pity, then, that its penchant for sentimentality makes it miss congeniality.

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