Sandra Bullock has been all over this summer. She is one of America's sweethearts and a proven draw at the box office. While not guaranteed blockbusters, her films are generally of modest budget and usually pull down a profit. Besides the money issues, she has a likable screen presence and I find that I usually want to like her, even in roles or films that are not quite up to par. That logic applies to All About Steve. It's not a good movie, but it has moments that will make you laugh. This movie defies logic. It features characters and situations that feel on the edge of reality while seeming unreal, yet through it all, I wanted to like Sandra Bullock.
Sandra Bullock is Mary Horowitz. She designs weekly crossword puzzles for the local newspaper. She loves her job and she is good at it. So good, in fact, that she wants to make daily crosswords, although her editor says there is no room for them. Beyond her skills with words and the depth of her knowledge of facts, she has no social skills. She is the weird girl in the red boots (yes they are a constant part of her wardrobe) who nobody understands. She lives with her parents and spends most of her free time with her cat thinking up new crosswords.
Then fate steps in and sends her life down another path. Her mother has gotten together with one of her friends and set Mary up on a bind date with, you guessed it, Steve (Bradley Cooper, hot off The Hangover). Steve is a cameraman for remote reporter Hartman (Thomas Haden Church). He shows up for their date, a date that Mary was a little apprehensive about in the first place, and there is initially some attraction. Problems begin as soon as they get in his truck to leave. She pretty much throws herself at him, and he does and says whatever he can to extricate himself from the situation.
Steve successfully escapes and heads out on the road with Hartman and their producer Angus (Ken Jeong of The Hangover and The Goods, busy summer for the comic). He gets himself right into his work, safe in the thought that crazy Mary is far away. However, Mary has different thoughts after their first encounter. She sets out on the road, tracking his every movement, all to the chagrin of Steve.
The movie is utterly ridiculous. Yes, I still believe the situation could actually exist on the outskirts of reality, but you cannot deny the serious goofiness of the movie. Its problem, as I see it, is that it is much too broad. If the film was played a little straighter, a little less broad, I think it would have been better.
What makes it work as much as it does is Sandra Bullock's absolute commitment to the character of Mary Horowitz. For all intents and purposes, Bullock is gone leaving only Mary. I do realize that this is what an actor does, but it was still fun watch her commit. Mary is such a goofy character and the way she handles herself in what may be a romantic situation is very funny.
Overall, this is a hard movie to recommend. It does not really hold together. Again, it comes back to the broadness of the characters and actions. What could have been an interesting take on the romantic comedy (with the stalker aspect) felt like something a lot more generic with a single likable actor in the middle playing a character that is borderline crazy.
Bottom line. It is not nearly as bad as I had been initially led to believe, but it is no hidden gem. It will provide some chuckles, mostly brought about by Sandra Bullock's antics, but it is soon forgotten as you leave the theater. Perhaps someone else will see this, recognize the poor execution of a good idea and deliver a remake.