Ryan Reynolds

The Proposal (2009)

The Proposal will be celebrating its tenth birthday next year, and as I rewatch it in 2018, I see that it doesn’t so much shine a light on naked Ryan Reynolds as it does on the conversation around American immigration. The premise rests on formidable editor’s imminent deportation to Canada, which she fights by arranging a quickie wedding with her assistant. Despite violating previous immigration orders and engaging in a sham relationship, INS actually goes along with the charade, grants the woman an interview, and proceeds as if everything was aboveboard – even after she admits to the fraud!

Are You Serious? [insert massive side eye] ICE is rounding up people left and right, and this is the immigration story we get? I know it’s Hollywood, I know it’s fake, and I know it was made in 2009, but it’s also incredibly sobering to watch in these times. The Proposal can only exist with a white Canadian protagonist. If you were to cast an actress any shade darker, this movie would be neither a romance nor a comedy. We’d have a straight up tragedy on our hands.

This is where reality leaves us, even if you can salvage parts. You can still appreciate the charisma and chemistry of lead actors, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Bullock is an ice queen as Margaret Tate, but her character melts damn quick when she starts opening up to her assistant cum fiancé during a weekend trip to Sitka, Alaska. Likewise, Reynolds is at his romcom peak. He plays, Andrew, the long-suffering writer and editor who endures his boss’s abuse in the hopes of securing a plum publishing job. The two eviscerate each other with withering sarcasm and wit, that is until they start to bond over Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. Their weekend with his parents (Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson) and grandmother (Betty White) helps both to reevaluate their priorities. For Margaret, it’s being more emotionally vulnerable and available while Andrew has to reconcile with his demanding father.

Besides the two leads, White gets the most attention as the gabby grandmother. She has her moments, like when she’s poking around Bullock’s chest like it’s an egg hunt. But there’s also a questionable scene in which she’s chanting and hopping about in what we’re led to believe is a Native American ritual. Props for bringing the Tlingit, an indigenous people, to my attention, but when your name is Betty White, spinning around a bonfire while wearing a headdress is not a good look.

Some supporting characters get lost, and the movie never balances the immigration fraud with Andrew’s story in particular. We meet his ex, Gertrude (Malin Åkerman), who normally would work her way into becoming the third wheel, but there is nothing bad to say about her. Worse yet, there’s really nothing to say about her at all. Andrew’s split with Gertrude and rift with his dad all have to do with his reluctance to stay in Alaska. Unfortunately, we never get a satisfying conclusion to this either, even if they do find peace.

Released: 2009
Prod: Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman, Kristin Burr
Dir: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Peter Chiarelli
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Denis O’Hare, Oscar Nuñez, Malin Åkerman, Aasif Mandvi
Time: 108 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2018

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R.I.P.D.

ripd

I’m a pretty ardent Ryan Reynolds defender and feel he’s been given a bum rap by critics and public alike. Sure, Green Lantern and The Change-Up weren’t the wisest career choices, but I think he is a capable actor who treads easily between genres and character types. That doesn’t make his outing in R.I.P.D any easier to swallow, however. Reynolds plays Nick, a police detective who gets offed by his crooked partner early on. He finds himself in the underworld’s Rest in Peace Department, which reins in the “deados” who are deceased but refuse to move on into the afterlife, choosing instead to roam the world disguised as regular folks. Nick is partnered with Roycephus Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), or Roy, a gruff U.S. Marshal from the Civil War days. Neither is pleased with his assignment; Nick would rather be un-dead, and Roy is not up to this partner bullshit ordered by his lady boss (Mary-Louise Parker).

Bridges, hidden under a bucket of a cowboy hat and a fine, silvery goatee, seems to especially enjoy his time as rough ridin’ Roy, a man who throws his authority around with one mean glance whether he’s in the Wild West or the streets of Boston. Reynolds meanwhile works in his trademark sarcasm in pinches, though he plays more of a straight man here. Despite their best efforts though, the film never takes off. It’s, how do I put it, dead on arrival.

The general conceit, borrowed from a comic book, is intriguing, if a little MIB-ish. Nick and Roy try to sniff out deados by baiting them with food and strange questions, also by literally sniffing them. The clever ones know how to mask the trademark stench. In the midst of the hunt, the two stumble upon a plan involving missing gold pieces that could undo the work of the R.I.P.D. and flood earth with dead people. Nick knows his former partner, Bobby (Kevin Bacon), is somehow involved and races to stop him.

The chase proves to be a snore, despite bullets and bodies ricocheting across the screen, and out of if you watched in 3D. Also, where the action doesn’t sustain the viewer, there’s not much comedy to pick up the slack. The film never pretends to be serious, but it doesn’t do much to add levity to the proceedings either. It also barely registers an emotional boost from the romance between Nick and his wife (Stéphanie Szostak). Eventually the novelty of dead officers disguised as an old Chinese guy and a hot blonde wears off, and the film is unmasked for what it is – a mediocre buddy cop movie that’s short on imagination and chemistry.

Released: 2013
Prod: Peter M. Lenkov, Neal H. Moritz, Mike Richardson
Dir: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stéphanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller, Robert Knepper
Time: 96 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016

The Change-Up

the change up

I know it’s fashionable to rag on Ryan Reynolds’s career (here and here), which, like an M.C. Escher drawing, you can never be sure if it’s going up or down when in reality it might be going nowhere, but haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. And while things might not be going the way of Bradley Cooper for him, I wouldn’t discount critical and commercial success in the future. For all his sarcasm and cheekiness, Reynolds has a nice guy quality that makes his characters redeemable and relatable even when they are being kind of a jerk, as is the case in The Change-Up.

In the movie, he plays Mitch, a layabout stoner who has a fractious relationship with his dad (Alan Arkin) but who doesn’t mind living off him while he struggles to make it big as an actor. Reynolds has perfected the clueless, carefree lothario shtick but spends a limited time in that role. Since it’s a body switch film, he trades in the familiar persona for that of an uptight family man who longs for a little excitement in his life and, in doing so, shows off his ability to reign in the cheek and play it straight.

If that sounds like the template for a Jason Bateman character, it’s because it is. Bateman begins the film as Dave, a corporate lawyer married to his high school sweetheart, Jamie (Leslie Mann). Like Reynolds, he sheds his typical image for something a more unbuttoned, and reveals a talent for physical comedy in the process. Bateman, probably more than his costar, makes the best use of trading places gimmick, and the incongruity of seeing the normally staid actor regressing in his home and professional life – sliding Dave’s baby twins onto the couch since he can’t be bothered or showing up to an important meeting in Sunday boating attire – produces a good deal of comedy.

Most of the humor pushes the bottom limit though as this otherwise typical body switch film tries to get ahead by appealing to its audience’s baser instincts. It separates itself from the pack with an R rating, which it earns by literally flinging shit and digging (into) holes. Unbeknownst to Dave, his best friend has been trying to break into the industry by appearing in “lornos,” or light pornos. He finds out only after they’ve switched places and he is on set, leaving him with no other option except to, well, go on with the show.

The filmmakers do their best to nurture a boys-will-be-boys ethos, and even if the movie doesn’t completely embrace Judd Apatow’s man-child comedy, it skirts pretty close. It relies too much on crassness and scatological humor for its own sake when it could have capitalized on the characters’ more revealing, in other ways, not-quite-midlife crises. Mitch’s stony attitude towards his father did more to inform the character than his juvenile passes at Jamie, but Arkin doesn’t get enough scenes to make an impact. Dave, or some iteration of him, however, has multiple encounters with his assistant (Olivia Wilde). She represents all the lusty twentysomething fantasies that he never fulfilled, but it’s never really clear where all his dissatisfaction comes from. In the end, this genre movie never raises its game to any new level and remains a mundane if crude film about two people who, unsatisfied with their lives, come to realize that things aren’t so bad after all.

Released: 2011
Prod: David Dobkin, Neal H. Moritz
Dir: David Dobkin
Writer: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Mircea Monroe, Gregory Itzin
Time: 112 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2015