Directed by: Phil Traill
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls
Whether or not—as some people are now proclaiming—Phil Traill’s All About Steve is the worst movie of the summer is debatable. At the very least, it’s up there (though I’d still rank Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra a bit higher based solely upon their sheer bloat).
What All About Steve truly is, however, is one of the oddest movies to come around in some time. I spent most of my time in dumbfound amazement, wondering who, exactly, thought making this movie was a good idea. Sure, Hollywood has green-lit—and spent millions on—any number of movies that most normal, cognizant human beings with the ability to tie their own shoes could tell is going to be a stinker. But even after getting the wheels turning, someone has got to agree to star in the damned thing.
Now, Sandra Bullock has made some bad movies in the past—Premonition (2007), Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005) and Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) come to mind immediately—but past mistakes are no excuse for present mediocrity. But for all the movies Bullock has made, she’s never given a performance quite as strange as the one in All About Steve.
Bullock plays the role of Mary Magdalene Horowitz in her usual romcom manner, but this time with a strange, subtle undercurrent of Steve Urkel or Pee Wee Herman. You see, Mary is a bit of an eccentric. She writes crosswords for a living, which translates to her constantly spouting off obscure trivia and forming a philosophy for life around crosswords. She’s also a bit of a social nitwit, so meeting men is a chore. Her fashion choices—which center around a pair of red vinyl knee-high boots—and her Vince Neil haircut don’t seem to help. Neither does the idea that she wears said boots because they make her “toes feel like 10 friends on a camping trip” (yes, someone got paid good money to write that line).
The end result is a bit of misfit empowerment, with the final message being that even the weirdest of weirdoes deserve friendship in the end. That’s perfectly fine—if dull and unoriginal—it’s the path the films takes to get to this conclusion that’s questionable. You see, Mary gets set up on a blind date with the titular Steve (Bradley Cooper), gets one look at his supposed dreamboat good looks and jumps his bones as soon they get in his beat-up SUV. Steve goes with it for a minute, but soon realizes Mary’s a trifle unhinged, makes up a work-related excuse (he’s a cameraman for a cable news channel) and gets out of there.
But Mary can’t take a hint, and instead believes she’s found true love. After losing her job for making a crossword puzzle that’s comprised solely of clues about Steve, she’s freed up to try and catch up with him on the various news assignments he’s shooting, the whole while talking everyone’s ear off about how wonderful Steve is.
The film traipses around from Mary creepily fawning after Steve in the most awkward of romcom fashions, to hokey melodrama (such as a bunch of deaf kids falling into an abandoned mine shaft and the media circus that follows), to the film’s sappy final revelations about just being yourself. But really, the point of the whole mess appears to be if you stalk someone long and hard enough, then almost die from falling in a giant hole in the ground, eventually that person won’t mind you all that much. What a beautiful message.
Unfortunately, the peculiarity of the film doesn’t translate to interesting. Or funny. Or entertaining. It’s a quagmire of a movie that might make me never look at crosswords the same way again. I always knew it’d be a sad day when I switched to the Jumble. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, including innuendoes.