Starring Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper. Directed by Phil Traill. Rated PG-13 for sexual content including innuendos. 99 minutes.
The title ALL ABOUT STEVE tells us two things. First, the target audience for this lame comedy likely won’t get the punning allusion to the classic 1950 Bette Davis film. Second, the person who came up with it presumably then had nothing else to do with the film since this is, without a doubt, one of the biggest wastes of celluloid this year.
Sandra Bullock, who was one of the film’s producers, stars as Mary, yet another attractive, intelligent woman who – therefore – is utterly hopeless with men. (See, or rather don’t see, “Post Grad,” “The Ugly Truth,” “Bride Wars,” “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” etcetera.) She is a cruciverbalist, a constructor of crossword puzzles. You have to be both clever and knowledgeable to do this so, according to the film, that makes her an obsessive nerd.
Her parents fix her up on a blind date with Steve (Bradley Cooper), a cameraman for a cable network. She almost immediately jumps him but he is then summoned on a news assignment. Extricating himself from this crazy woman he politely says he wishes she could come with him. She takes this literally. Newly obsessed, she does a crossword puzzle in which all the clues are about Steve, for which she gets fired. This, she decides, is a sign that she was meant to follow Steve.
The rest of the film consists of her getting into trouble as she follows him from news story to news story. Steve wants nothing to do with her. However the on-air reporter (Thomas Haden Church) sees that’s she a fount of knowledge he can tap into to make himself look smarter and encourages her to believe that Steve really loves her. Is this contrived enough for you yet?
The problem here is not only the horrendous plotting, but that there isn’t a credible character among the lot of them. These cartoonish cardboard cutouts simply are moved from a protest over surgery for a three-legged baby to a tornado to hearing-impaired children trapped in a pit as if this will distract viewers from the fact that there’s no real story here. One is tempted to call this a bad romantic comedy, but there isn’t any romance. Steve doesn’t like Mary, and Mary doesn’t end up with Steve or the reporter. In fact the happy ending seems to have something to do with stupidity being a good career move.
It’s been quite a while since Sandra Bullock charmed us in “Speed” and “While You Were Sleeping.” She’s a smart woman who has taken control of her career and has had a certain amount of success as a producer, but as an actress she has taken one disappointing role after another to the point that she has squandered any claim to stardom. Here’s a clue: big stars don’t have their movies dumped on Labor Day Weekend.
“All About Steve” turns out not to be all about Steve, but about how an actress can have the clout to get a movie made but still end up with very little to show for it.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.