September 03, 2009

All About Steve

Ha ha ha...I'm dragging your career down with mine...Ha ha ha...

Grade: F

Director: Phil Traill

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, and Ken Jeong

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

In my review of The Proposal, I lauded Sandra Bullock’s ability to transcend even a bad screenplay with her usual exquisite comic acumen. Who could have realized that mere weeks later I would witness Bullock drag down an already woeful comedy with what is likely the worst character and performance of her professional life?

All About Steve is both unfunny and uncomfortable, a waste of time and talent inflicted upon an unsuspecting public by a screenwriter Kim Barker, whose last and only prior credit was the equally appalling Robin Williams’ clunker, License to Wed. In other words, Barker’s ineptitude is not surprise. What is truly dismaying is Bullock’s cringe worthy effort, seemingly patterned in part after Kristen Wiig’s irritating Saturday Night Live character Penelope, the passive-aggressive nervous Nellie who cannot be outdone by anyone.

Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, crossword puzzle writer for the local Sacramento news daily and a single flibbertigibbet living at home with her parents. A blind date with a television cameraman, Steve (Bradley Cooper), both stokes Mary’s carnal fires and sends her freak flag a flyin’. After a Steve-centric puzzle causes Mary to lose her cruciverbalist gig, she embarks on a stalker’s mission to track him down wherever news is happening, whether it is the travails of a three-legged baby or a group of deaf children who fell into a mineshaft. Ha…ha? Along the way, she also encounters hurricanes, twisters and cicadas…Oh my.

It is not just that Mary is exceedingly annoying – she is, rattling off encyclopedic rants punctuated only by mindless drivel such as explaining that she always wears red boots because they “make my toes feel like ten friends on a camping trip.” No, what’s equally disconcerting is that Mary is so clearly psychotic that it is impossible to find any modicum of humor in her eccentricities.

Thomas Haden Church alone benefits by comparison to the rest of the insipid cast. Still, his role as a narcissistic on-air reporter yearning for a shot at the anchor’s chair seemingly exists for the sole purpose of a closing anti-media rant by Mary and the rest of her new, deranged friends.

The film closes with renowned crossword puzzler Will Shortz’s quote that people are drawn to crossword puzzles because of their “compulsion to fill empty spaces.” If only something could be done about the empty spaces between the ears of those responsible for this cinematic tripe, who apparently believe that there’s no movie so bad that a good old-fashioned well-rescue can’t fix.

An embarrassment for all involved, All About Steve sets a new nadir for Bullock’s career. And, after a steady stream of merely mediocre entries, it is the first film unworthy enough to be considered the worst movie of this year. Here’s hoping I am not unfortunate enough to endure anything that threatens to steal its crown.

Neil Morris

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