In a summer where the biggest hits (Up, Star Trek, The Hangover) aren’t dependent on big-names (Jack Black couldn’t propel The Year One to even The Top Three), one star has emerged to put a spike heel through that theory. Her name is Sandra Bullock and she has single-handedly put The Proposal — a formula romcom if there ever was one — into the winner’s circle.
Starring Bullock as a hard-edged Manhattan book editor who marries her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) so she won’t be deported back to Canada, The Proposal was accepted by moviegoers to the fancy tune of $34.1 million. And that ain’t just chick-flick money as usual. It’s Bullock’s biggest weekend gross ever. Her previous record (go figure) was the thrill-free Premonition, which took in $17.6 million in 2007. For some reason, moviegoers don’t just like Bullock in The Proposal, they really like her. I like her, too, but found The Proposal a snore. So in tribute to the Bullock magic, I thought it’d be fun to pick the three best Bullock performances, and then weigh in with the three worst. Feel free to play the game.
The Best of Bullock
- Speed (1994)
Forget Keanu Reeves, it’s Bullock who drives off with this megahit. As Annie, a passenger who takes the wheel of the bus when the driver is shot, Bullock makes us believe the impossible things Annie is doing and, better, makes us care. She’s more exhilarated than scared flooring the gas pedal to clear a 50-foot gap in the freeway or taking a detour into city traffic. This baby made her a star.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Bullock is both comic and touching as Lucy Moderatz, a token seller toiling for the Chicago transit authority who falls for a customer (Peter Gallagher) who doesn’t know she’s alive. When her secret crush falls on the tracks and into a coma, Lucy is mistaken for his fiancée. And that’s when she falls for his brother (a terrific Bill Pullman). Bullock negotiates this farce as if every moment mattered. Thanks to her, it does.
The movie won the Oscar as Best Picture, but the Academy showed no love to Bullock who plays strikingly against Miss Congeniality type as an Los Angeles political wife whose nerves are fried when she is carjacked at gunpoint by two black men. Bullock is equally dramatic and subtly dazzling in the little-seen Infamous, giving a beautifully nuanced performance as Truman Capote’s confidante, To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee.
The Worst of Bullock
- Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005)
A Bullock sequel that’s even worse than Speed 2. This is too bad because in the first Miss Congeniality (2000), Bullock is so much fun she almost saves the movie, just like she does in The Proposal. As Gracie Hart, the FBI agent who goes undercover at a beauty pageant, Bullock has a tipsy scene that defines her appeal. “You think I’m gorgeous,” she tells a fellow agent. “You want to kiss me. You want to date me.” The scene is utterly silly, but Bullock is utterly irresistible.
- The Lake House (2006)
Keanu Reeves was Bullock’s good luck charm in Speed, but here in this bastard child of The Notebook and Somewhere in Time, she is stuck in ghastly, ghostly love story that needs a bus to run over it.
- Premonition (2007)
The real horror in this bogus thriller is watching Bullock drop her big Miss Congeniality smile to A-C-T! As a woman haunted by visions of her dead husband, she does this by not smiling. The range she showed in Crash and Infamous goes out the window. Will she get it back? I’m guessing there will be an award-caliber dramatic performance in Bullock’s future.