Fox // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // January 7th, 2010
A comedy that clings.
"I will eat you like a mountain lion."
Mary Magdalene Horowitz (Sandra Bullock, Miss Congeniality) is a cruciverbalist (a constructor of crossword puzzles) who has had little success in her career and even less success in the realm of romance. Her parents are desperately hoping to become grandparents at some point, and Mary isn't getting any younger, so they set her up on a blind date with a news cameraman named Steve (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover). To say the date doesn't go well would be a considerable understatement. Mary impulsively pounces on Steve as soon as she gets in his van, and Steve manages to get out of the situation thanks to a last-minute news story assignment he receives. Somehow, Mary gets it into her head that Steve wants nothing more than for Mary to join him on the road, so she embarks upon a road trip. Will Mary succeed in winning over the man of her dreams?
2009 will be remembered as a banner year for Sandra Bullock. Her films The Proposal and The Blind Side both managed to become box office mega-hits, and Bullock somehow secured two Golden Globe nominations for her performances in those films. Fortunately for Ms. Bullock, these success stories have overshadowed the fact that 2009 also contained All About Steve, which is quite possibly the worst film of Bullock's career. How on earth does an actress with options wander into a project this horrifically misguided?
The essential problem with All About Steve is that it doesn't seem to realize that the story it's telling is an intensely sad one. This is a movie about a disturbed, emotionally unstable woman who is clearly in need of help. Her behavior goes well past the "lovably goofy" stage into the "genuinely troubling" stage, but the film seems to find her actions cute and adorable. Even worse, the film is surprisingly mean-spirited, getting its kicks out of torturing this poor woman in a series of increasingly humiliating ways. Perhaps there is a good film that could have been made about the suspiciously-named Mary Magdalene, but this appalling romantic comedy isn't it.
Based on the performance Bullock provides in the film, I have to believe that her primary inspirations were Michael Cera and a recently-shaken carbonated beverage. It's an ungainly, unfunny, unfocused performance that never manages to achieve liftoff. When we hear other people in the film describe Mary, she sounds like a considerably more distinct character than the performance Bullock provides. On the flip side of the coin, Bradley Cooper is a complete bore as Steve. This is a problem with you have a film All About you. The supporting cast is littered with comic talents, including Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man 3), Ken Jeong (NBC's Community), Keith David (Coraline), and DJ Qualls, but even these folks have a rough time finding laughs in the midst of this rubbish.
After an hour of so-called "comedy" devoted to getting laughs at the expense of an undeserving target, one might think the film couldn't possibly get any worse...and they would be completely wrong. The third act takes a turn into melodramatic territory that seems to have been mysteriously transported into the film from some sort of bizarro-world. It involves a group of deaf children falling into an old mineshaft, which is somehow supposed to be intensely funny (at least that's what the wacky score tells us). Through a series of convoluted circumstances, Mary finds herself trapped in the same mineshaft, which is when the film suddenly decides that we're watching a drama and not a comedy. The one moment in the film that did make me laugh is one we're supposed to take seriously, in which a distraught Bullock explains that she wears her wacky red go-go boots because, "they make me feel like my toes are ten friends on a camping trip."
The film receives a stellar transfer, though like too many romantic comedies it just seems sort of...plain, I suppose. The image is bright and colorful, but also very conventional and typical. Bullock's red boots tend to leap off the screen, but that's really the only eyebrow-raising element. Otherwise, it's a satisfactory and competent transfer that just gets the job done. Detail is fine, blacks are fine, shading is fine, everything is fine. The audio is okay, but I do think the music is turned up just a little loud in contrast to the rest of the film. There's also a peculiar tendency to let the pop songs go on just a little too long, as if the film is attempting to provide padding. There aren't any moments that will make your speakers rumble, but it gets the job done.
The extras are a mixed bag of oddities, kicking off with a commentary track featuring Jeong, Bullock, Cooper, Church, director Phil Traill and writer Kim Barker. It's amusing, which is more than I can say for the movie. There's also a fun little mock piece called "Hollywood Dish with Mena Micheletti" (17 minutes), which has a few laughs at the expense of typically vapid EPK-style featurettes. Odd musical improvisations can be found in "Bradley Cooper and Ken Jeong's A Capella Duet" (2 minutes) and "Crew Snapshots to Mary's Rap" (3 minutes), which are worth looking at once, I guess. On the more conventional side, you get "All About All About Steve" (10 minutes), "Life After Film School with Phil Traill" (23 minutes), trailers, a gag reel and deleted scenes. Oh, and you get a digital copy.
Spare yourself and avoid this garbage.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Improvised Songs
* Gag Reels
* Digital Copy