THE PROPOSAL
Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White | PG-13 |

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ROMANTIC COMEDY
The imperious top editor at a Manhattan book publisher, Bullock begins this enjoyable comedy as a junior clone of Meryl Streep's wicked witch in The Devil Wears Prada. She blithely orders her cowed assistant (Reynolds) to be her faux fiancé as a fix to her visa woes (a Canadian, she's facing deportation). But this ice queen soon warms up to Reynolds, and vice versa, during a visit to his family in Alaska.

While breaking no new ground, Proposal is amusingly diverting and sometimes better than that. Sure, it goes on too long and a few scenes are superfluous (no more male strippers, ever!), but its likable leads capably zing comic lines and land pratfalls. And veteran pro White is a hoot as Reynolds' grandma. Upon meeting Bullock, she asks tartly, "Shall I call you Margaret or the Devil's Mistress?"

Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood | PG-13 |

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COMEDY
In the hit-or-miss world of latter-day Woody Allen movies, his newest, Whatever Works, falls somewhere in the middle. This lightweight comedy, about a cantankerous coot (David) and the barely legal nymphet (Wood) who falls for him, starts off shaky but improves as it goes along. The 73-year-old filmmaker, who doesn't appear in this one, is again exploring a familiar theme: the inexplicability of love. More specifically, that who we fall in and out of love with is beyond our control, no matter how smart and sophisticated we think ourselves. (Or, as Allen so memorably put it in 1992, when explaining his affair with his then-girlfriend Mia Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, "The heart wants what it wants.")

Curb Your Enthusiasm's David does a passable imitation of Allen, but it is more a tribute than a performance. Wood lays on the southern cornpone a little thick, but she still charms. And comic ace Patricia Clarkson, who shows up as Wood's disapproving mom, easily steals the film.

>Talking men with The Proposal's golden grandma

SHE'S 87!

ON COSTAR SANDRA BULLOCK'S HUSBAND, JESSE JAMES I don't think there's a square quarter inch on him that isn't tattooed, and I love it. [Sandra said,] "I would just roll over and read him."

ON RYAN REYNOLDS There is a sweetness about him, and I think that's what gets through to the girls. I like when a guy can be tender.

ON THE SEXIEST LEADING MAN EVER Robert Redford in Out of Africa. If you ever want [to give me] a Christmas present, just wrap up Robert Redford.

>• The comic actor, 30, plays it straight as the missing groom in The Hangover.

YOU'RE A BACHELOR BUT... I love being in a relationship. I'm in a good place with a great girl. [He dates Ashley Olsen, 23.]

WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL BACHELOR PARTY? I think mine is going to be low-key. Just a few glasses of wine. Definitely not Vegas—unless my friends kidnap me.

>Dead Poets Society touched a generation

20 YEARS AGO

When Ethan Hawke signed on to play a '50s teen who is inspired by an unorthodox teacher (Robin Williams) at a stuffy boarding school, he had no idea he would become part of movie history. After the film opened, he and costar Robert Sean Leonard entered a restaurant and patrons reenacted a key scene. "Someone called out, 'O captain! My captain,'" recalls Hawke, now 38, "and a table of 10 people stood on their chairs." The 1989 drama (available on DVD) went on to gross $236 million worldwide, turn its young stars into pinups and popularize the phrase carpe diem, Latin for "seize the day." Only now, jokes Williams, "it's 'carpe per diem,' which is for the new economy."

>The movie's young stars went on to Hollywood success

ETHAN HAWKE Busy on screen and stage. His next film, Brooklyn's Finest, is due in November.

ROBERT SEAN LEONARD As Dr. James Wilson, he's a series regular on Fox's House.

JOSH CHARLES Was a lead in ABC's Sports Night (1998-2000) and regularly guest stars on TV.