One of the more unlikely cult successes of recent years has been Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room,” a movie that sells out its monthly midnight screenings in Los Angeles not because it’s good but because it’s so exceedingly inept as to merit fascination. It’s one of those films you watch that leaves you wondering if its maker has ever seen a movie or had a conversation in English with another human being.
While it’s never as dizzyingly off-kilter as “The Room,” the new Sandra Bullock vehicle “All About Steve” also raises questions: Did first-time filmmaker Phil Traill assume that Bullock’s legendary likability would make audiences root for a hyper-tongued crossword puzzle creator with no people skills and a proclivity for stalking? Could screenwriter Kim Barker (the execrable “License to Wed”) have been any lazier when she named the film’s two rival cable news networks CCN and NNC?
And in a rescue situation where firefighters were pulling a group of deaf children out of an abandoned mine, how likely is it that they would forget one until Bullock’s character Mary fell into that same chasm and found the little girl?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Bullock stars as Mary Magdalene Horowitz — I know there’s a million Catholic girls named Mary, but “Magdalene”? Really? — who does the crosswords for her local Sacramento, Calif. paper. She’s got a million facts and synonyms at her fingertips but seemingly can’t stop herself from endlessly spouting them in conversations, usually with strangers who regard her with wide eyes and tight lips, wondering when they’ll be able to get away from her. (Two minutes into “All About Steve,” my face had the same expression.)
Her parents set her up on a blind date with Steve (Bradley Cooper), a cameraman for CCN. Mary is entranced, so she tries keeping her yap shut, but Steve hasn’t even started the car before she’s all over him. He’s fine with having sex before they even get to the dinner part of the date, but then she starts talking and talking and talking, and Steve can’t get out of there fast enough. He lies and says he has to suddenly leave town on assignment but makes the mistake of saying “I wish you could come on the road with me.”
Mary creates a Steve-themed crossword puzzle that gets her fired by her editor — who would presumably have seen it before it got published — which frees her up to track down Steve at his next assignment. For no reason other than it’s in the script, CCN reporter Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden-Church) encourages Mary, telling her that Steve’s just afraid of his love for her and that she needs to push hard. So when the news guys pick up stakes and go to the next story, Mary follows with the help of two random strangers who — again, for no reason other than it’s in the script — schlep her all over the southwest. And then she falls into the mine.
It says something about “All About Steve” that the press screening I attended was generally silent until its one big serious moment at the end, where one of Mary’s pals confronts Hartman for encouraging her. It’s supposed to be a moving, thoughtful moment. And finally, we all laughed.
Frantic, inane, moronic and obnoxious, “All About Steve” ranks among the very worst movies of the year. The decade, even. Not for nothing is a movie featuring the stars of two of the summer’s biggest hits (Bullock in “The Proposal,” Cooper in “The Hangover”) getting buried on Labor Day weekend, where it’s destined to get lost in the shuffle of barbecues and back-to-school shopping.
Unless you’re desperate to start a drinking game when this movie hits cable — knock one back every time Mary says “crossword”! — spare yourself.
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