Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong
20th Century Fox
How many top notch comic actors does it take to completely screw up a film?
Apparently, the answer is four, not counting DJ Qualls, a comic actor who has appeared in his fair share of screwed up films already.
Somehow, despite the presence of Sandra Bullock ("The Proposal"), Bradley Cooper ("The Hangover"), Thomas Haden Church ("Sideways") and Ken Jeong ("The Hangover"), "All About Steve" is an appallingly stupid, inept and unwatchable film that easily turns out to be Summer 2009's worst comedy.
In the film, Bullock plays Mary Magdalene Horowitz, a socially inept crossword puzzle constructor, at least until constructing a puzzle in tribute to the subject of her stalking, for a Sacramento newspaper whose cheery demeanor is supposed to endear her to us despite her obviously psycho-stalker tendencies and psychopathic weirdness that would scare away virtually anyone with any common sense.
After being set up on a blind date with a CNN cameraman (Bradley Cooper), Mary Magdalene spends the rest of the film crossing the country to chase this hottie down, egged on by a fellow reporter (Thomas Haden Church), in scenes that are uncomfortable at best, excruciating at worst and exacerbated by a mind-bogglingly manipulative climax in which Mary Magdalene finds herself at the bottom of a well alongside a hard-of-hearing youngster (Delaney Hamilton) while her hottie reporter covers the scene live.
After having proven in recent years that she actually can act and having won back the hearts of America in this year's "The Proposal," Bullock throws it all away with what may very well be her single worst performance in her single worst film.
I kid you not.
Screenwriter Kim Barker ("License to Wed") pummels Mary Magdalene with cruelty after cruelty along the way, almost as much cruelty as is tossed at the audience of this allegedly romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor even remotely funny. In fact, what's even more disturbing is that the only funny scenes in "All About Steve" are those scenes intended as morality tales involving the aforementioned deaf kids in a well, a 3-legged baby and, well, I just give up.
I can't believe I just wrote 3-legged baby.
The simple truth is that Bullock's Mary Magdalene is nails on the chalkboard irritating while Cooper's turn as Steve is so bland that it defies logic that even the overwhelmingly desperate Mary Magdalene would find in him anything worth traveling across the country for at any point. The film's only decent lines belong to Thomas Haden Church, yet they are so few and far between they're barely worth mentioning.
Director Phil Traill, whose background thus far has been and should remain British television, shoots "All About Steve" in a similarly episodic fashion. The film feels like we're simply being jerked from locale to locale for the sake of the humor, unfortunately none of the humor works and all the jerking is aggravating.
There have been a couple, and I mean only a couple, film critics who have considered "All About Steve" to be "refreshingly quirky," as LA Weekly's Chuck Wilson proclaimed and Bullock as "endearing," as the Toronto Globe and Mail reported. It's difficult to fathom the mind that could consider "All About Steve" as quirky or Bullock as endearing, and one is left to wonder if both critics simply have unresolved relationship issues or, perhaps, have dated someone not too far removed from dear ole' Mary Magdalene.
Destined to disappoint even the most diehard of Bullock fans, "All About Steve" never goes far enough to be truly edgy, never garners enough laughs to be considered a comedy and never truly commits to any message enough to possess any meaning. The end result is a film that fails on virtually every level and, worst of all, completely mutes a talented cast capable of so much more.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic