All About Steve Review

Sandra Bullock has had an odd year. An uplifting romantic comedy (The Proposal), an inspirational sports film (The Blind Side) and All About Steve. What is All About Steve? It’s not really romantic (the lead stalks a man who wants nothing to do with her). It’s not really all that funny. It’s not even that uplifting (more depressing than anything). It sits safely on the divider of a highway called mediocrity, afraid to run towards either shoulder. If the film was laughably bad it would have been an improvement. There are attempts at humor, but most of them get drowned out by the sadly desperate needs of the main character. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of romance, but it’s overshadowed by themes of self-discovery and overt rejection. All About Steve is that comedy everyone wants to be funny and whimsical but which comes across as plain and somewhat depressing.

The start of the depression is Mary Horowitz (Bullock). The fact that she’s an intellectual that most people don’t understand and who’s so hopelessly inept in the field of personal relationships that she can’t hang on to a date for even a half hour isn’t really the worst part. It’s the fact that we know people just like her. To that effect, the film succeeds quite well at creating a personality people have seen in the real world. Unfortunately, there’s no levity to make her adventures in the world entertaining. She’s viewed as little more than a kook by the more well-adjusted folks in the film, and it’s a viewpoint the audience is encouraged to see.

Yet, the movie requires us to sympathize with Mary.

When Mary’s parents set her up on a blind date, she instantly assumes the worst about the intended suitor. However, when Mary discovers the man to be the attractive news cameraman Steve (Bradley Cooper) she lets her excitement get the best of her and jumps him in his car (sexually, not criminally). After only a few minutes he’s running for the hills and leaves Mary standing on the curb with the impression that he wants her to follow him across the country as he performs his informative duties. Her love struck brain goes into Steve-overdrive and the crossword puzzle she creates (that’s her job, which she loves) has Steve-centric clues for every number. Naturally, this gets her fired. With her schedule cleared she resolves to follow Steve on the job which, again, she thinks he wants.

Were it not for the rather cruel egging on of Mary by Steve’s co-worker Hartman (Thomas Haden Church), she probably would have lost hope in her mission, especially since Steve explicitly states numerous times that he doesn’t want her there. There’s an all-too-easy plot device present which spurs her on: Hartman tells her that for all Steve’s protests, it means he really wants her there. Mary’s overly enthusiastic nature lets her buy into this ploy, but it leaves the audience slightly annoyed that the plot is leaning so heavily on this crutch. When Mary finally becomes something Steve acknowledges with more than aversion everyone has learned something about themselves. It’s a simple resolution for a really simple movie that just never has anything going for it.

Are we supposed to support Steve in his efforts to dissuade Mary from a romance? Or is Hartman’s practical joke of fueling a romantic fire that never existed in the first place supposed to keep us in touch with Mary’s “plight”? Knowing who your friends are is a good lesson for any film, but presenting it in such an odd way as this has to make you wonder.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The audio commentary starring writer Kim Barker, director Phil Traill, and actors Bullock, Cooper, Church, and Ken Jeong actually has a few laughs going for it, maybe more than the film itself. A digital film rounds out the list of usual suspects on a Blu-ray release including a gag reel, deleted/aternate scenes, and a making-of featurette. Unique extras include a focus on the Jeong & Cooper duet (moderately humorous), a one-on-one piece with the director, and a publicity piece with Mena Mitcheletti.

"All About Steve" is on sale December 22, 2009 and is rated PG13. Comedy. Directed by Phil Traill. Written by Kim Barker. Starring Bradley Cooper, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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