On screen, Sandra Bullock presents a nice demeanor. She is sweet, adorably sweet. Nice, nice, nice. At times, she can be adorable.
But no matter how hard she tries, she does not possess or transmit a comic edge. Though she tries hard to be funny and witty, comedy does not appear to be her calling. Give her a decent screenplay and she can survive, keep her head above water. But hang her out to dry in a comic mess like “All About Steve,” and you have a disaster.
Phil Traill’s romantic comedy, his first feature, exposes Bullock, and in short, plays to her weakness as an untrained actress. Somewhere in “All About Steve” there’s a nugget — a story about a social misfit who constructs crossword puzzles for a Sacramento newspaper. She is a cruciverbalist (Wow! You learn something every day) named Mary Magdalene Horowitz.
‘All About Steve’
DIRECTED BY: Phil Traill
SCREENPLAY BY: Kim Barker
STARRING: Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls, Katy Mixon, Howard Hesseman, Beth Grant, Jonathan Chase and Kerri Kenney
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
She knows her words all right, but with men she is a loser. But after her mother fixes her up on a blind date with a cable TV cameraman named Steve, she goes into nerdish ecstasy.
Before he has a chance, Mary attacks Steve, played by Bradley Cooper, with sexual thunder. Ripping his shirt off with hurricane force, she releases her hormonal urges; his response is to flee the scene and head out on an emergency news assignment.
Undeterred, Mary Magdalene stalks her intended soul mate all over the Southwest. Her relentless quest is encouraged by Steve’s boss in the field, a caricature of an aspiring anchorman, played by Thomas Haden Church. His over-the-top performance is embarrassing.
The dramatic question is pretty predictable. Will Steve fall for Mary Magdalene, appreciate her virtues? As presented here, it’s the stuff of a third-rate play, clumsy, contrived and achingly insipid.
“All About Steve” may be a harmless escapade, but sitting through it proves to be a painful experience.
This venture is produced by none other than Sandra Bullock.
Reach Gazette film critic Dan DiNicola at [email protected]