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3 reviews, 6 user ratings

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All About Steve
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by Peter Sobczynski

"There's Something Unbelievably Irritating About Mary"
1 stars

Depending on how you look at it, Labor Day weekend is either the very last weekend of summer or the very first weekend of autumn. On the surface, it doesn’t really make much of a difference--the kids are still heading back to school, the barbecue grills are still going back into the garage and people are still going to gather around their television sets to watch every single minute of the Jerry Lewis telethon to once again bask in his singular rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”--there are some matters in which it does make a difference. For example, suppose you go to see the new Sandra Bullock romantic comedy “All About Steve” this weekend--as you will so discover, this might not be your wisest move but there is always some joker in the crowd who refuses to heed sensible warnings. Once the film ends and you leave the theater (presuming that you are still able to move under your own power), you will most likely consider it to be an absolutely terrible film--however, will you be an optimist and call it the last terrible movie of the summer or will you be a pessimist and consider it to be the first terrible movie of the fall? Then again, this is a film that is so awful in so many inexplicable ways that you might not even require a seasonal distinction since it could easily be considered one of the biggest dregs of the year, decade or millennium. Even in a year that has already given us the likes of “Bride Wars,” “The Proposal” and “The Ugly Truth,” “All About Steve” could well be the absolute nadir for the romantic comedy genre--I realize that putting such a pronouncement in print is pretty much asking for something worse to come along but I am not sure that such a thing is actually possible.

Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, the kind of aggressively quirky Character who (thankfully) tends to exist only in wacky comedies of this type. She has a quirky job as a crossword puzzle designer for a local paper, a quirky wardrobe consisting of self-consciously mismatched clothes topped off by a pair of bright-red vinyl boots that even gutter-level prostitutes might find questionable and a quirky lack of social grace that causes her to lace every conversation with pointless trivia, crossword-related metaphors or complaints about her lack of any love life until you want to beg her to stop. In the hopes of helping out with the last thing, or perhaps just to get her out of their house so as to either get a couple of hours of peace and quiet or to change the locks, her hopelessly enabling parents (Howard Hessmann and Beth Grant) set her up on a blind date. At first, Mary isn’t certain that she wants to go out with the guy--which she confesses to her pet hamster--but when the poor, defenseless bastard turns out to be hunky cable news cameraman Steve (Bradley Cooper), she instantly falls madly in love with him. Alas, this turns out to be the least successful date in screen history since Travis Bickle took Betsy to the movies and in an effort to escape her deranged clutches (she literally mounts him the moment they get into his van), Steve says that he has to go on the road to follow another story and gee, it would be swell if she could come along to be with him.

Unfortunately for Steve, what any other sentient being would take as an obvious blow-off line (especially since the “date” proceeding it lasted maybe five minutes) is taken by Mary as absolute gospel and when she gets fired from her crossword puzzle gig for submitting a puzzle in which every clue is about Steve (a move that apparently shatters the trust that the paper has with the puzzle community, though one wonders how it got published without anyone noticing that something was off about it), she takes it as a sign that she should hit the road in pursuit of him. When Mary finally catches up with Steve in Arizona, where he and news reporter Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church) are covering a standoff involving a divorced couple arguing over whether or not to surgically remove their daughter’s third leg (yeah, you heard me), he is surprised, creeped out and tells her in no uncertain terms that he has no interest in her and doesn’t want her around. Inexplicably (a word that will appear in reviews of this film with pretty much the same frequency that “Nazi” does in pieces on “Inglourious Basterds”), Hughes decides that it would be funny to tell her that Steve really does love her and that she should follow along with them wherever they go. She takes his advice and after a detour in Texas for a hurricane and a tornado, they all wind up in Colorado (apparently the network has only one camera crew at its disposal) where, I kid you not, a group of deaf schoolchildren have plummeted into an abandoned mine shaft. Don’t worry--the kids are quickly rescued but because Mary is such a tunnel-visioned idiot, she fails to notice the giant, gaping hole in the ground that everyone is staring at while running towards Steve and falls into it herself. This leads to an absurd conclusion in which Mary stumbles upon a straggling deaf kid whose absence wasn’t noticed by any teachers or class mates and somehow saves the day, Steve finds himself finally recognizing all of her good qualities (?) and she finally explains why she is always wearing those goddamned red boots. I feel no qualms about revealing what happens because any intelligent person will have fled the theater long before this point and anyone else probably isn’t reading this review in the first place.

There are so many problems with “All About Steve” that a review of it threatens to look like a list but of them, the most fundamental of the bunch is that the central character isn’t so much a whimsical and charming person who marches to the beat of her own drummer as she is a deeply disturbed individual with deep-rooted emotional issues that have driven her over the edge and into stalker-like behavior. Of course, the grand history of screwball comedies have been filled with people behaving in ways that are borderline insane (if you doubt me, just pay attention to the actual behavior of Katherine Hepburn’s character in “Bringing Up Baby” the next time you watch it)--the trick to making a successful one is to make those characters so engaging and likable that you find yourself ignoring the fact that you would be fearing for your safety if you ran into any of them in real life. In the case of Mary, however, there are many words that could be used to describe her but “engaging” and “likable” are definitely not among them unless preceded with the word “least.” Right from the start, Mary is an annoying, clueless, snazzy, self-absorbed bore and the only change in her personality comes when she adds her demented stalker tendencies into the mix. Having the lead character in a comedy demonstrating such characteristics isn’t necessarily a bad idea--one of the funniest films of 2009 is “Observe and Report” and one could describe its central character in those exact terms--but for the humor to have a chance to work, the film has to either admit right from the start that the character is deeply disturbed or only gradually reveal that fact over time. Here, Mary is an obnoxious monster right from the start but the film is under the bizarre delusion that her antics are adorable instead of frightening--she even gathers a collection of misfits along the way who look upon her as some kind of hero. Unfortunately, she is drawn as such a nut that we are less concerned about whether she will find true love than we are that she will find professional help before taking out either herself or the nearest shopping center. Making things even creepier, if such a thing is possible, is the fact that Bullock, to put it charitably, is getting a little long in the tooth to be playing these kinds of roles and the sight of her blithely and brainlessly skipping about the country in her moronic pursuit is really discomforting after a while. Let me put it this way--this is easily the single worst film that Sandra Bullock has been involved with and bear in mind, I have seen “Speed 2.”

Although Mary is the biggest flaw in “All About Steve,” it is by no means the only one. Steve, for example, is such a personality-free jerk that it is impossible to determine what it is that Mary sees in him in the first place--in a better film, this might have made for an inspired joke but here it just seems like bad casting. (Indeed, Bradley Cooper is such a dullard that it isn’t surprising that the ads for the film have to keep reminding you that he appeared in “The Hangover” despite it being one of the biggest hits of the past summer.) The weirdness involving, Steve, Hughes and their field producer (Ken Jeong) quickly grows irritating (though Thomas Haden Church does score a couple of genuine laughs as the fatuous newscaster, though he knocks those out of the park with all of the ease and effort of a slugger smacking some pre-game dingers). The awkward turn towards sentiment in the final reels after all the misguided wackiness is exceptionally pathetic, especially when the filmmakers threaten to kill off both Mary and an adorable little deaf girl for no other reason than to jump-start the pathos. Strangest of all, especially when you consider that this is a film that presumably skews towards female audiences, is the occasional propensity towards unnecessary and unwarranted crudity in regards to its humor--in one exceptionally gauche instant, there is a joke at the expense of Larry Craig that even Keith Olbermann might find to be weirdly gratuitous and wrong. In the recent Fall Film Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly,” Thomas Haden Church explained this by saying that Bullock, who also served as a producer, wanted such “edgy” humor because she wanted the film to follow the template of “Wedding Crashers.” Well, if following the template of “Wedding Crashers” can be defined as making a comedy that isn’t very funny featuring Bradley Cooper in the cast, mission accomplished.

If a man had written “All About Steve,” I am certain that it would be savaged as hateful and borderline misogynistic trash. As it so happens, it was written by a woman (Kim Barker, whose previous credit was the equally loathsome “License to Wed”) and it is still hateful and borderline misogynistic trash. It is a complete embarrassment for all concerned--those who made it and those who paid to see it alike--and the experience of watching it is so defeating that by the time it comes to its merciful conclusion, any remaining audience members will be too bummed out by the entire experience to summon the strength to leave the theater (at least until the next show starts). Those who do make it all the way through to the bitter, bitter end will discover that there is a post-credit cookie featuring a bit that, depending on your point-of-view, was either too good or too bad to be included in the film proper. In this one, a fairly peripheral and unnecessary character suddenly starts screaming and deliberately jumps into that deep, dark and increasingly dangerous hole, presumably never to be seen again. After watching “All About Steve,” my guess is that most viewers will know the feeling.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17517&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/04/09 00:00:00
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User Comments

9/26/10 Jennifer kimberly wierd movie took three times to watch 1 stars
5/04/10 lia clevand 4 stars
3/16/10 P.N. Guin So great to see Bullock finally take home an Oscar for this. 5 stars
1/10/10 becky Predictable and STUPID 1 stars
11/25/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Red state retards can't toss perky Mary a rope. Larry Craig perfect as creepy closet case 4 stars
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  04-Sep-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Dec-2009


  DVD: 22-Dec-2009

Directed by
  Phil Traill

Written by
  Kim Barker

  Sandra Bullock
  Thomas Haden Church
  Bradley Cooper
  Ken Jeong
  DJ Qualls
  Katy Mixon

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