ALL ABOUT STEVE
Director: Phil Traill
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls, Keith David, Howard Hesseman, Beth Grant, Katy Mixon
MPAA Rating: (for sexual content including innuendos)
Running Time: 1:38
Release Date: 9/4/09
Review by Mark Dujsik
Who are we supposed to identify with in All About Steve? Not like. That would imply that we understand one of the characters enough to feel a personal connection to them. Certainly not root for. That would imply that we feel that connection and want them to succeed.
No, I'm simply asking, which of these characters is even recognizable enough in the sphere of human existence that we might be able to think, yes, I get him/her.
It's certainly not our cruciverbalist, red-booted heroine Mary (Sandra Bullock), who is full of useless trivia, sees life lessons in the doing and creating of crossword puzzles, and takes it upon herself to annoy everyone around her with both of these. When a guy picks her up for a blind date (at her parents house as her apartment is "being fumigated"), she gets very quiet, jumps him in the car, and says something about them being destined for each other.
Steve (Bradley Cooper), a cameraman for a major news network, needless to say, ends the date a bit early, because of "breaking news" in Boston. He wishes she could go with, but, drat, she has a job, which she loses after she writes a crossword that is entirely about the guy she's had personal contact with for all of 15 minutes (that her editor let it pass for print is a matter the editor leaves unspoken). Without a job, she decides to join Steve on assignment.
Nope, there's no identification there. As Mary is played by Bullock, she's supposed to be neurotic, but in a way that makes us think, oh, sure she's got some issues but she's so darn likeable. You know, quirky but cuteŚcute yet quirky.
What the result is, though, is much less quirky and more to the point of desperately wanting Mary to seek therapy, posthaste. As the movie progresses, she ends up looking like a hero to the world, because she saves a deaf girl who's trapped in an abandoned mine.
That's the level of action it takes to even tolerate her in the end. That the movie sets up a chain of events that leads her to even imagine rescuing a deaf girl from an abandoned mine, though, is intolerable.
It's also not Steve's partner Hartman (Thomas Haden Church), an on-location reporter with ambitions of becoming a desk anchor. Hartman's career is on the line after a few unfortunate stories, so he's really looking for the big one this time around.
Luckily for him, he encounters a hostage situation at an Old West themed attraction, a baby that was born with a third leg, a hurricane approaching Texas during the state's tornado season and the cicada cycle (I wish I were kidding), and, when he asks for some real tragedy, the movie cuts to a group of deaf children approaching a carnival. They, of course, fall in the mine.
Hartman's a parasite and a bit of a dullard. He would be a stereotypical and irritating media type if not for the fact that he leads Mary on. He tells her Steve is really just afraid, and that, no matter what Steve says, she should just keep at him.
Hartman knows Steve has no interest in her and is frightened by her stalker behavior, but Hartman wants to use Mary's knowledge to be a better reporter. Instead of taking advantage of a woman with obvious emotional problems, he could just consult Wikipedia.
The movie has a mean sense of humor that undermines its attempts at a feel-good romantic comedy (What other explanation is there for the cut from the mention of tragedy to a group of deaf children?). It's ultimate attempt at being an inspirational story of how Mary is just different and misunderstood and that Hartman is capable of redemption is pathetic (Cue the piano intro to "Drops of Jupiter" and retching).
Steve ends up being the nearest thing to an identifiable character, but he should have really just been upfront with Mary in the first place. It would have saved her a lot of trouble and us the misery of sitting through All About Steve.
Copyright ę 2009 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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