As summer comes to a close, “Transformers 3” is rattling around in some development exec’s brain, and Hollywood has already decided that this will be the autumn of Gerard Butler. That guy has entertainment product arriving in theaters every week between now and Christmas Day, it seems, including this week’s “Gamer,” which looks like it’s about how his face is falling apart. Or something.
But I don’t really care. I mean, I’m happy that Butler’s got more movies coming out, if for no other reason than that it will help eliminate the barfy taste of “The Ugly Truth” that I’ve been unable to shake for the past several weeks.
It’s just that, for me, it’s about to get all Sandra Bullocky in here. I’m a big fan, happy to watch even her crappiest movies over and over on cable (except for that insufferable “Crash,” which she was barely in long enough to get robbed at gunpoint by Ludacris or for Racism to push her down a flight of stairs).
So I’m fully on board for her, down for — almost — whatever. And while my ticket purchase is a done deal, these are a few of the techniques by which she plans to get more of your money…
Red things all over the place, controlling you
Compare the poster and the theatrical trailer and the TV spots for this week’s “All About Steve.” They’re all about provoking you with fiery red cues. Super-shiny red patent leather go-go boots? Check. Red bra showing? Check. Red bead necklace thingie? Check. Red and white striped umbrella hoisted as a wacky weapon that may or may not soon be employed in a (saved for unrated DVD release) ritual disemboweling of Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church and Ken Jeong? Check.
Rollicking red sitcom-style title font in the TV spots (the same one, in fact, being used for the sure-to-be horrifying new Jenna Elfman show, “Accidentally On Purpose”) all leading you into a confused state of mind where you assume it might just be a new cable series? Check. In this scenario of dominant color-coding, Sandy B is the toreador as well as the bull. Get out of her way or you’ll be gored by comedy.
We’re not usually treated to a non-brunette Bullock. That’s because, more often than not, she is her hair. Dark, often cranky, with no time for your nonsense or for giving in to typical girly-girl frivolity.
You won’t usually catch her simpering and taking the kind of abuse that Katherine Heigl’s characters seem to enjoy suffering. On a speeding bus she’s providing deadpan commentary. And in (at least the first half of) this year’s big hit “The Proposal,” she’s taking Ryan Reynolds down dozens of pegs with severe, pulled back, near-black Lady Boss locks.
Of course, then she gets her own comeuppance, which is part of what made that film such a disappointment. You want her to win at everything, not just love, and that kind of winning is a brunette’s game. So for the purposes of her two fall films, the abrupt shift to blonde is a Statement: “I’m not Sandra Bullock,” says hair like that. “I’m this other guy now.”
In “All About Steve” she’s gone all weird blond streaky, movie shorthand for unhinged lunatic stalker-chick who merrily falls into big ditches, bellowing all the way.
In this Thanksgiving’s based-on-true-stuff heartwarmer, “The Blind Side,” about a wealthy white family that adopts a homeless African-American teenager who becomes a football star, she gets the glowing, honey-blond, rich-housewife treatment. It’s kind, gentle, everyone-gets-a-cup-of-cocoa-and-warm-cookies-and-a-cashmere-blankie hair and it’s meant to beatify her. This is also her version of Nicole Kidman’s fake “The Hours” nose or Charlize Theron’s jacked up “Monster” teeth. It’s Oscar-smooching hair and, in a year that’s seen few major female performances, her chances are as good as any.
Terror face and sass mouth
“All About Steve” evokes “All About Eve’s” scheming, stalking Eve Harrington and every pre-release glimpse of the comedy presents Bullock as a wild-eyed, wide-open-mouthed, screaming lust monster, terrifying guys and sexually assaulting Bradley Cooper every chance she gets.
If we’re lucky audience members, even though it’s played for laughs, she’ll get her man without sacrificing her ability to bulldoze through everyone around her. I hate it when romantic leads in movies have to learn stuff and soften up to get the love they want. Jerks have relationships the world over; aren’t we supposed to be happy for them, too?
Hugs as weapons
Enough people enjoy hugs to make them something people also want to watch on film. They’re the closest humans can get to being a puppy with a red Christmas bow choking its neck. And meaningful embraces are a foregone conclusion in “The Blind Side.” They’re like oxygen for those kinds of movies and “The Blind Side” will probably contain enough to merit a little odometer at the bottom right hand side of the screen.
Weirdly, it appears that Bullock is the recipient of a giant group hug at some point in “All About Steve,” too (provided it’s not already been edited from the final cut). I have no idea what the context is, obviously. But I’m hoping it has something to do with her character finally triumphing over the forces that would make her conform to a not-red-go-go-booted and not-threatening-to-stab-people-with-an-umbrella lifestyle. As I said before, I like it when the brunette wins.
Dave White is the film critic for Movies.com and author of “Exile in Guyville.” Find him at www.imdavewhite.com.