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In which I hurl a series of ad hominem attacks at Sandra Bullock, and attempt halfheartedly to describe the sack of baby vomit that is her new feature film, The Proposal:

  1. Sandra Bullock has a face that looks like a muppet’s, if only muppet faces were made of leather. This face acts as the first point of removal, keeping the audience at a distance in Bullock’s ridiculously formulaic new romantic comedy, The Proposal.
  2. Sandra Bullock has undergone so much bad plastic surgery that, in her later years, it will virtually be assured that she will play Joan Rivers in a schlocky Oxygen channel biopic. In Bullock’s new feature film, The Proposal, it is completely unbelievable that male lead Ryan Reynolds would ever have any sexual desire toward her. When he refers to Bullock as “beautiful,” it is the film’s single comedic moment.
  3. Sandra Bullock, in previous projects, has been out-acted by such cinematic titans as Keanu Reeves, Sylvester Stallone, and Dennis Miller; the public is immune to her professional failures because of the hypnotic effect of her muppet face. In Bullock’s new feature film, The Proposal, she is far outshined by Betty White, who is far past the point of not giving half a fuck about whatever movie role she happens to get.
  4. Sandra Bullock is a total bitch to work with. In Bullock’s latest cinematic toss-off, The Proposal, the best actor they could get to play Bullock’s father-in-law to be was Craig T. Nelson, who has clearly gone crazy, and needs any work he can get. (See this video.)
  5. Sandra Bullock is a bestiality fetishist. In Bullock’s new feature film, The Proposal, she has intercourse with various Alaskan wildlife species, including a harrowing scene in which she fucks an elk.

Ok, so I made one of those up, but it may not be the one you think. (Unless you’re a member of Sandra Bullock’s legal team, in which case I retract each of the above statements, agree that The Proposal was the finest movie of the year, and direct each of my five readers to go see it post haste, and at my own expense.)

Film: The Proposal
Director: Anne Fletcher
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Oscar Nunez

Viewing situation: Weekday matinee, moderate crowd; digital projection
My grade (out of 10): 1
Rotten Tomatoes average: 46%

Next up: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (part of a Theater Hopping Double Feature ©!)

Summer Movie Suicide Mission ’09: Seeing them all, all summer long. Follow Summer Movie Suicide Mission on Twitter: @SMSM09. Check out the full list to date here.

In which one man attempts to view every summer blockbuster for the entire season, regardless of taste, genre, or cover bands that only play ’80s Joel, sir.

It’s certainly good to see Will Ferrell finally get away from his string of sports comedies, a cycle which began with the goofy (and wickedly funny) Nascar satire Talladega Nights, but had pretty much worn thin by the time of last year’s Semi-Pro. In Step Brothers, Ferrell re-teams with frequent on-screen collaborator John C. Reilly, a veteran character actor who, thanks mainly to Ferrell and producer Judd Apatow, has begun to get his due as a comedic star in his own right. Both actors have an uncanny ability to play developmentally stunted manchildren, and in that sense, Step Brothers is an inspired premise, with Reilly and Ferrell playing 40-somethings who can’t seem to leave the comfort and security of their parents’ houses. When their single parents meet and move in together, the pair must learn to finally get a life.

As this summer’s comedic star vehicles go, Step Brothers far outshines the likes of The Love Guru, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, and Meet Dave. But still, in spite of a lot of good laughs, it left me a little cold. It’s different from the most recent crop of Ferrell films, but on a number of fundamental levels, it’s much the same. It leaves behind a common formula, opting to focus equally on its two stars, rather than presenting Ferrell as some sort of troupe leader. But the tone remains the same. For Reilly, whose early career was marked by incredible versatility, may now be pigeonholing himself as a Ferrell sidekick (or a Ferrell surrogate). Ferrell himself has shown some range (though usually in bad films, like Stranger Than Fiction, Melinda and Melinda, and The Producers), but as he ages, he’ll need to consider what tack he wants to take with his personal projects.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m a huge fan of a well-made stupid comedy, and Ferrell has long been one of my favorite performers. I just fear for his future a little. This summer, I’ve lamented the fates of the likes of Mike Myers and, especially, Eddie Murphy. It’s not hard to imagine, ten years from now, looking at Will Ferrell’s career arc and seeing something similar.

But that’s all a future concern. For now, both Ferrell and Reilly have enough laughs still in the tank to make Step Brothers work. The get a little help from the always awesome Richard Jenkins (as Reilly’s dad) and a well delivered straight woman performance from Mary Steenburgen (as Ferrell’s mom). Adam Scott (a familiar bit player from other Apatow projects) has some of the film’s best gags as Ferrell’s successful and obnoxious younger brother.

Step Brothers is also aided by the direction of Adam McKay, a veteran of several Will Ferrell projects, who knows how to play to his star’s sensibility. The overall look of the film is understated, but the filmmaker’s intention shines through; despite few bells and whistles, it’s clear McKay has a handle on his story. You can draw a pretty strong line between the way McKay approaches directing a film and the way his boss Apatow does. Apatow himself doesn’t so much direct, as he just shoots. It’s refreshing to see someone like McKay, who’s able to handle the genre.

Next up for Step Brothers’ major players? Ferrell is starring in a film adaptation of Land of the Lost, a pretty dubious proposition given the history of beloved TV shows going to the big screen years after the fact (see Get Smart). Reilly is slated to appear as a vampire in Cirque du Freak, helmed by American Pie director Paul Weitz, which, if Weitz’s recent history is any indication (American Dreamz, In Good Company) probably isn’t terribly promising. McKay, sadly, has nothing in the pipeline, undoubtedly awaiting the call for Ferrell’s next vanity project.

For now, those projects still work. Ferrell just needs to start considering his options.

Programming Note: The X-Files: I Want to Believe

The new (about eight years too late) X-Files film (I Want to Believe) was released the same weekend as Step Brothers. But it didn’t stay in release for long. I missed it completely. Since I hadn’t seen the first X-Files film, I could claim I Want to Believe under my “unseen sequel exemption,” but I won’t. I had intended to see it, but it turned out to be even more of a catastrophic failure than I thought it would be. I’m awaiting its inevitable release at Athens’ $1 theater, where it will join the likes of College Road Trip, which has been running there for months. Look for a Summer Movie Suicide Mission addendum some time in September.

Film: Step Brothers
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott

Viewing Situation: Weekday evening, half crowd; standard projection
Rotten Tomatoes Average: 51%
My Grade (Out of 10): 6

Next Up: Pineapple Express