All About Steve was originally set to come out last spring, starring Sandra Bullock, who hadn't had a hit in years, and Bradley Cooper, who had been part of a handful of successful comedies but had yet to become a household name.
Now that it's coming out this weekend, of course, it's being sold as a vehicle for the stars of The Proposal and The Hangover, the summer's two biggest comedies. It would be a much easier sell if All About Steve were actually funny, rather than just an interminable series of gags based around the shrillest, most obvious characters imaginable.
Most shrill of all is Bullock as Mary Horowitz, a vague kind of lunatic who wears red pleather boots every day, can't help spouting trivia to strangers on the bus, and lives at home with her parents basically for lack of something better to do. She doesn't have Asperger's, exactly, but she definitely crosses the line from socially awkward to irritating, making her a completely unrelatable character from the moment she explains, in voiceover, how crossword puzzles are just like life.
Yes, her job is to write crossword puzzles for a Sacramento newspaper, a laughably unrealistic job even before newspapers effectively ceased to exist. She's only interested in the words and language of crosswords until she meets Steve (Cooper), a beautiful but bland cameraman for the CCN news network who at first is happy about Mary's advances on their first date, but quickly surmises, well after we have, that she's an intolerable wacko. This becomes even more clear when Mary makes her next puzzle "All About Steve," getting her canned from her ludicrous job and giving her nothing to do but tail Steve as he and his team follow stories across the Southwest.
Joining Steve on the job are pompous news reporter Hartman (Thomas Haden Church) and a camera assistant played by Ken Jeong, who for the first time in his short career fails to give his character an ounce of personality. The stories they're after are kind of bizarre and fascinating-- a baby born with three legs, an entire group of deaf schoolchildren trapped in an abandoned mine-- but we're mostly subjected to Mary dispensing folksy crossword wisdom and Hartman's weird, unexplained fixation on getting Mary to keep chasing them. Mary runs into some random side characters who seem inexplicably enthralled with her, while Steve continues to lose it as Mary pops up everywhere they go.
Everything about this movie that ought to indicate comedy is off, from basic timing to intended laugh lines that just fall dead onscreen. Worst of all, though, is Mary, intended as the kind of crazy tornado who makes all the normal people reconsider their lives, but just unbelievably irritating in practice. Bullock never finds her rhythm within the character's eccentricities, and isn't at all helped by Kim Barker's script, which doesn't develop the character well enough to make her even comprehensible. Phil Traill caps the whole thing off by directing the movie as if Mary is America's unheralded sweetheart waiting to be discovered.
Clearly everyone involved in this was embarrassed even before their careers took off this summer, and even Fox seems to be hoping that everyone is too busy grilling out for Labor Day to remember to see it. It's easily the worst comedy I've ever seen with such normally top-shelf talent in it. Hopefully they'll forget about being part of this as quickly as I plan to forget seeing it.
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