Review

All About Steve

Director    Phil Traill
Starring    Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls, Keith David, Beth Grant
Release    4 SEP (US) 15 JAN (UK)    Certificate 12A
2 stars

Rob

18th January 2010

Sandra Bullock. Hollywood A-list. Attractive, likeable and never takes herself too seriously. The question is, how has 2009's most successful female US box-office star managed to maintain her Hollywood status, when she's been coasting for so long in various whimsical non-coms? You know, non-coms like The Proposal, and like this unflattering piece of guff.

Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a crossword writer for a local Californian newspaper. Years of compiling crosswords has given her an encyclopaedic brain but has turned her into a social retard - the type of person who talks for hours without actually saying anything. After being set up on a blind date by her concerned parents, Mary meets Steve (Bradley Cooper) a rugged cable news cameraman.

After a very brief date in the back of his car, Mary is convinced Steve is her true love and stalks hi... er, trails him across the country as he chases the news along with his reporter (Thomas Haden Church) and their assistant, Angus (Ken Jeong). Wherever the news is, Steve is and wherever Steve is, Mary is, no doubt lurking in the bushes, like stalkers do.

[gallery]Despite Oscar-friendly films like Crash and Infamous, Sandra Bullock has a knack of resorting back to the relative safe zone of ditsy comedies, playing unconventional women who have trouble keeping men, and are generally considered to be a bit mental. It's business as usual here then, only the eccentricity is working overtime. And here, her commercial affability is stretched to its limits.

It doesn't bode well when the main character of a film is also the weakest link - Mary is annoying, unflattering and creepy, resulting in her scenes being an uneasy watch. It's no surprise Steve is scared shitless by her. Thank goodness for the strong, more-than-capable supporting cast, because otherwise this would be a total write-off.áIf only it was all about Steve.

The rest of the cast pull together to pick up the scraps of dignity Bullock leaves behind, Haden Church the stand-out as news reporter Hartman Hughes. However, it's never explained why he constantly eggs Mary on to follow them other than to keep the film spluttering along. Still, Bradley Cooper, looking curiously youthful, does what's required of him as the victim of this terrifying ordeal (I'll let you decide if I mean the stalking or the actual film).

The biggest problem with All About Steve, other than an irritating lead character, is that director Phil Traill fails to maintain a consistent tone; the film doesn't know what it wants to be. Half an hour of the film consists of Mary down a mineshaft with a deaf kid; later, DJ Qualls drive directly into a tornado.

There's a message hidden deep within the film about being proud of who you are and to never change for anyone, but it gets overpowered by the oddity of Mary and a messy, scattershot plot that features three-legged babies, deaf kids and natural disasters. However, if Bullock can continue to juggle self-produced fodder like this whilst occasionally doing the odd serious picture, like the Golden Globe-winning The Blind Side, then her place amongst the A-list is safe. For now.

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