Mary Horowitz, the main character in All About Steve, loves words, so it’s no surprise she enjoys creating crossword puzzles. Unfortunately, her constant talking and obsession with language make the people around her miserable. Played with bizarre intensity by Sandra Bullock, Mary also becomes an annoying force in this goofy comedy, thereby causing some viewers to tune her out also. And because she talks so fast, it’s difficult to understand her in many scenes. Bullock, one of my favorite actresses, took a big chance with this challenging role, but I can’t help wishing she had passed on it.
All About Steve follows Mary as she stalks handsome news cameraman Steve (Bradley Cooper, who’s rapidly becoming the new cinematic heartthrob). After a disastrous blind date, she mistakenly thinks Steve wants her to join him on his road assignments. Cruelly urged on by Steve’s pretentious TV news partner (Thomas Haden Church), Mary overcomes impossible obstacles to meet her “boyfriend,” who just wishes she would go home, in three different states.
Along the way, our heroine endures humiliation and great danger. A tornado and children trapped in a mine shaft present the most perilous situations. But through this hazardous journey, Mary learns about her inner strength -- and even finds a couple of true friends (DJ Qualls and Katy Mixon) who appreciate her intelligence and positive attitude.
Although I laughed at a few slapstick gags in All About Steve, the rest of the film didn’t seem very funny to me. Instead of “comedy,” “pathetic” is the word that comes to mind. The story doesn’t hang together, most performances appear forced, and I left the theater feeling frustrated. I usually want to rave about Bullock. Terrific at comedy, she also has the ability to make us empathize with the characters she plays and to draw us into their world. Remember her hilarious work in Miss Congeniality? And, most recently -- with the help of Ryan Reynolds (be still my heart) -- in The Proposal? But in All About Steve, neither the character nor her world seem real.
On a positive note, DJ Qualls (The New Guy) offers a sensitive and subdued turn here as a man anyone would be happy to have as a friend. And the movie contains a valuable message about tolerance of individual differences. “Don’t ever change,” one character tells Mary. Still, he was probably thinking, “But stop talking so much.”
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated “PG-13” for sexual content including innuendos.)
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