Fox // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // December 9th, 2009
From the producer of Miss Congeniality.
If ever there was a movie tagline that promised hilarity, warmth and an all-around good time at the movies, it's "From the producer of Miss Congeniality." Not the writer. Not the director. The producer. The guy truly responsible for the perennial classic that is Miss Congeniality.
That tagline, which is the honest-to-god, they-put-it-on-the-poster-and-everything tagline for the 2009 "comedy" All About Steve, sums up a lot of what's wrong with the movie: it's structured like a tagline, it looks like a tagline, but when you actually read the thing it offers nothing of value. None of this is to say that I have any real ill will towards Miss Congeniality; as silly star vehicles go, you could do a lot worse. In the pantheon of Sandra Bullock films, it probably ranks in the upper half -- making it light years better than All About Steve.
Let's talk about Sandra Bullock. Are there many movie stars whose careers have survived the sheer number of bad movies she's made? In Love and War. Two if by Sea. Practical Magic. Premonition. Murder by Numbers. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. Speed 2: Cruise Control. She is charming and adorable and has likability to spare, but she really needs to find new representation; there is no excuse for most if not all of these movies. And, yet, here it is 2009 and Bullock is arguably bigger than ever thanks to two of her most successful films to date: the romantic comedy The Proposal and the sports drama The Blind Side, both of which were audience favorites and did major business. This is in the very same year, mind you, that All About Steve was released -- a movie that's as bad or worse than any that she's done. It's awfulness doesn't seem to matter. Sandra Bullock is bulletproof.
Make no mistake about it; All About Steve is easily one of the worst movies of the year. Watching it, one wonders how so many talented people could have gone so wrong. How did Bullock -- who also is credited as a producer -- think the movie would work? What movie did this cast, which also includes Bradley Cooper (who, like Bullock was in this movie coming off the biggest hit of his career, The Hangover), Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), Ken Jeong (Role Models) and Katy Mixon (Eastbound and Down), think they were making? Bullock stars as Mary, a crossword puzzle writer for a local Sacramento paper still living with her parents. She's set up on a blind date with cable news cameraman Steve (Cooper), whom she instantly falls madly in love with. Sensing her desperation, Steve gives her the brush off by lying that he's been called out on assignment -- but not before emptily suggesting he wishes she could come along. Mary, who is apparently brand new to Earth, takes him at his word; after getting fired (for creating a puzzle that is "all about Steve"), she hits the road to stalk Steve and his gang: a shallow reporter who eggs her on (Church) and a hapless producer (Jeong). The rest of the film is devoted to Mary's mishaps as she behaves in a way that no human would willingly behave and supposedly touches the lives of those she encounters -- all leading up to a third act that ditches any attempt at comedy in favor of sentimentality as Mary is trapped in a mine shaft with a deaf girl. Go ahead and read that again.
Yes, All About Steve looks like a comedy and sounds like a comedy, but there is nothing funny about it. It's not necessarily the premise, which might have been mined for at least a few laughs in the hands of someone more capable than TV-director-turned-first-time-feature director Phil Traill; the movie is essentially What About Bob (even its title sounds similar) with a little gender manipulation to play up the romantic comedy potential. No, the biggest problem with All About Steve is the main character, who is so thoroughly obnoxious and unlikable that to call her "grating" is an understatement. We understand why Steve is trying to get away from her. We want to get away from her, too. At no point does Mary resemble any real human being (at least, not one who hasn't been diagnosed with some sort of personality disorder); it's difficult to root for the happiness of such an obvious and terrible writer's construct. By the end of the film, I guess we're supposed to just think that Mary is an individual and marches to her own beat -- we're meant to not just respect her for it, but to downright adore her. Uh-uh. Not buying. I think there's a way to make a character quirky but warm, genuinely odd but lovable, and Bullock's probably the right choice to play that part. But Mary is a sociopath. The less time spent with her the better.
The copy of All About Steve I viewed was a studio screener, so I can't comment on the finished technical aspects of the disc. I was able to check out the abundance of bonus material, however, and was surprised at the ways in which it all perfectly suits the film -- which isn't really a compliment. There are deleted scenes and a gag reel and short featurettes that give the appearance of comedy without ever actually being funny; everything comes off manic and desperate, just like the movie itself. Bullock, Cooper, Church, Jeong, director Traill and writer Kim Barker sit down for a commentary track that ought to be more enjoyable than it is; it's worth listening to just for the star power (it's actually more entertaining than the movie), but no one seems to have a realistic idea of the movie that they actually made. A collection of nine deleted scenes offer more of the same, as does the standard making-of promotional featurette, All About All About Steve. A jokey entertainment news magazine piece (hosted by the great Kerri Kenney-Silver of The State, who has a small role in the movie) is never very amusing and far overstays its welcome; another piece, featuring stars Jeong and Cooper singing a made up song in front of clips of the movie is strangely self-satisfied and unfunny. In a universe where All About Steve is a movie that works, this stuff would be a welcome inclusion. In this one, it's just a lot of piling on bad after bad.
Perhaps the most telling bonus feature is a slide show of every single crew member that worked on All About Steve that plays over a rap performed by Bullock. A casual viewer will have no interest in this, meaning the only people that will watch it are the ones who worked on the movie and want to see their own pictures. They're likely to be the only ones buying the All About Steve DVD.
I like Sandra Bullock. She deserves better than All About Steve. We all do.
Review content copyright © 2009 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site