"All About Steve" is not worth pursuing

Sept. 6, 2009, midnight | By Anya Gosine | 12 years, 1 month ago

Formidable actors deflate viewers' delight

Bringing together comedic veterans Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper to execute a worthy comedy seems simple for the dynamic duo; however, the sparse laughs amongst the poor screenplay can hardly cover the fact that the feeble characters in this film are hardly more suitable for the actors than Bullock's new shaggy blonde 'do.

Directed by Phil Traill, the story focuses on Mary Horwitz (Bullock), a highly intelligent but socially inept crossword puzzle-maker who lives at home with her parents. Lonely and work-obsessed, she agrees to go on a blind date with news cameraman Steve (Cooper). Within minutes into the first date, Mary develops a huge infatuation for him that drives Steve away. However, Mary is unfazed as she puts her life on hold to chase the travelling cameraman across the western United States. Thrown into the mix are Mary's equally quirky friends Elizabeth (Kathy Mixon) and Howard (DJ Qualls) as well as Steve's news crew teammates, the sensible team leader Angus (Ken Jeong) and the narcissistic and frivolous anchor Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church). Overall it is the recipe for either a brilliant comedy or sloppy gag show – unfortunately, it becomes the latter.

With two experienced actors, there is no doubt talent goes to waste here. Though Bullock applies skill in her character embodiment with a whimsical lisp (which is highlighted in her long-winded ramblings to strangers) and bubbly mannerisms (played up while cavorting around in bright red go-go boots), it is clear that the forward boldness the actress is known for does not fit Mary's unstable personality. As for Cooper, not much can be done to bring the character of Steve to life. With a dull vitality and rarely the source of humor, Steve is, despite the title's suggestion, hardly the spotlight of this film.

Fortunately, while the two lead roles were not enchanting, the peculiar charm of the many minor characters together create a ticklish hilarity. Mary's companions Howard and Elizabeth each have a perfect blend of awkward eccentricity and heartwarming sweetness. Angus's seemingly bland character bursts amusement with his reactions to the bizarre situations in which he and his team deal with. Finally, Church makes Hartman Hughes possibly the funniest character in the film with his rash ignorance and reckless spontaneity.

Despite this, the story contains many inconsistencies in plot progression that distract from the several amusing segments that the audience responds to. Written by Kim Barker ("License to Wed"), the film's series of events engender a noticeable choppiness as both the news team and Mary travel from site to site, covering breaking news that would realistically not be "breaking" by the time they reached their destination. And though Barker successfully captures the theme of individualism, she attempts a critical shot towards present-day media, which does not sufficiently meld into the film's overall message. This lack of cohesion continues with Mary's narrative voiceovers; while there are multiple throughout the film, the story overall does not feel like her personal tale.

In a minimal sense, the film affords some laugh-out-loud humor and a band of loveable characters. However, the story's patchy plot work and even pitiable twosome cause viewers to not want to know "All About Steve."

"All About Steve" (98 minutes) is rated PG-13 for sexual content including innuendos. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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