Why did stars as big as Sandra Bullock and Mary Steenburgen do this movie? Heck, why did stars the size of Ryan Reynolds or Craig T. Nelson do it? Not even Betty White was able to perk it up. I don’t mind formulaic romantic comedies. I’m a girl. I mind formulaic romantic comedies that think they can get by on formula and star power while adding absolutely zero wit or character development.
Sandra Bullock’s character, Margaret Tate, is a bitch in four-inch heels who rules the office with an iron hand and her assistant (Reynolds’s Andrew Paxton) with a whip-hand. Though her manner is uncompromising and manipulative, interestingly–and it was almost the only interesting thing available in these characters–her actions, as demonstrated by the firing of a subordinate, are reasonable bordering on gracious. When she lets him go, she tells him exactly why, her reason makes sense, and she gives him “two months to find another job, and you can say you resigned.” Most people losing jobs nowadays should do so well.
The movie grinds through its “get married to avoid deportation” plot, takes Margaret home to Andrew’s Alaskan small-town mogul parents, runs through the usual physical and embarrassment comedy scenes, and winds up with Margaret leaving because she now likes Andrew too much to make him go through with the wedding. The only warm moment was The Kiss of True Love, and by that point I was thanking the Hollywood gods that they could get that much right, because they certainly didn’t show enough change in the thoughts, feelings, or manners of these characters to make us care otherwise. Andrew’s parents were ciphers with no depth, as was his Alaskan ex, and the movie followed the seemingly now-standard formula of “two endings”–the big, public denouement followed by the quieter “real” ending when the characters finally come together. But that routine has to be handled carefully to make it work; otherwise it just feels tacked on and deflated. And no part of this movie, including the ending, got very careful handling.
The direction was not altogether lacking; some interesting camera work tried hard to provide the depth that was missing from the script. And the idea certainly was solid–see also Green Card–but unlike Green Card, the comedy scenes were mainly mildly cringe-inducing and the characters just flat. They had chemistry, but it was all untapped. It could have been a good movie had it had a different script. Alas. But hey … Ryan and Sandy sure can kiss.
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