All About Steve– 2009’s romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock that wasn’t The Proposal– concerns many things. It concerns crossword puzzles, red disco boots, TV news anchors, deaf kids, cicadas, cleavage, and– above all else– it concerns the notion of stalking-as-romantic comedy device, which may also concern you (just not in the way it concerned all those other things). For those about to hit the jump to read a review wherein Sandra Bullock’s latest romantic comedy gets eviscerated, we salute you.
To be sure, All About Steve seems to be about a lot of things. Screenwriter Kim Barker has fashioned a film built from spare parts at the Wacky Plot Factory, elements that surely sounded hilarious on paper (to someone) only to fall flatter than Hillary Swank once they’re all tasked with interacting with one another onscreen. The tone of the film is all over the map, careening from dirty-minded to “heartwarming” to absurdist to flat-out boring, sometimes within the space of a single scene. Watching All About Steve is a strange, disconcerting experience.
Which, if you read the reviews that followed the film’s release earlier this year, you’re probably already aware of. Critics lambasted the film for a central joke that hinged upon a group of deaf kids being put in jeopardy, not to mention the whole “stalking-as-comedic-device” thing we mentioned before. These things may concern you, as well, but they’re not what concerned this critic.
Before we go on, let’s get the plot out of the way for those that managed to stay shielded from the All About Steve promotion machine earlier this year: Bradley Cooper is the titular Steve (hint: the most fun I will have writing this review is using the word “titular”; say it out loud, it’s more fun than watching All About Steve), a cameraman trailing around Thomas Haden Church’s news anchor character. For reasons that are never fully explained, Steve has been set up on a blind date with Mary– that’s Bullock– by the two fully grown adults’ parents. Following a disastrous first date, Mary stalks Steve as he goes back and forth across the country, following news leads, and much hijinks and potential for romance ensue. What are the chances that Steve will see Mary’s quirks and persistence as charming by the end of the film? Well, have you seen a romantic comedy before?
Rather than the predictability, I was bothered by the aforementioned uneven tone of the film, not to mention the ridiculous, senseless behaviors of the film’s characters. In scene after scene, one character or another will do something that simply doesn’t make sense, behaving only in a manner necessary to move the plot along. For example, once Mary catches up with Steve following their nightmare of a blind date (which Steve rightfully cuts short due to Mary’s aggressiveness), he tells her she’s misunderstood him, he doesn’t want her around, and that she needs to leave– post-haste.
To explain why Mary– who’s quirky but not retarded (source: Wikipedia)– wouldn’t take the hint and leave in that moment, there’s a sequence where Haden Church’s character convinces Mary that Steve is just toying with her and that he really does want her around. Why would Church’s character do this? Because if he didn’t, there’d be no story. This is that kind of romantic-comedy.
It’s at this point in the review that, were I reading, I’d give up and go find something else to do. I implore you not to: it’s vital that you read this to the very end, because one day you might find yourself in a situation where someone wants to watch All About Steve with you, and if you don’t let me have my say, you may be convinced to undertake that fool’s errand. How’s about this: I promise you that if you read this review all the way to the end, I will make porn free on the internet. Don’t try to trick me, either: I’ll know if you cheated. Let’s get back to the review.
Another standout problem would be Bullock as Mary: the character’s incredibly annoying, and played annoyingly by Bullock. Sandra Bullock’s made a career playing adorable, quirky characters in stuff like this, but in All About Steve she goes much too far in the wrong direction, all but begging the audience to dislike her. At no time during All About Steve will you find yourself rooting for Mary– which is vital to the success of a film like this– unless, of course, you find yourself rooting for Mary to stay at the bottom of the sinkhole she falls into towards the film’s conclusion. Believe me: there was much rooting going on in my living room during these sequence.
Other thoughts: I learn from the IMDB that Kim Barker also came up with the story for License to Wed, which comes as nothing approaching a surprise. Frankly, I was more shocked not to find Old Dogs on her resume; Cooper displays none of the roguish likability he displayed in The Hangover and seems wasted here; Ken Joeng, who also starred in– and nearly stole–The Hangover appears as well and is equally wasted; and, finally, Thomas Haden Church seems to be performing in a different movie altogether, something that’s more “parody” and less “romantic-comedy”. As I said before, the whole thing’s just unpleasantly weird.
The All About Steve Blu-ray has an impressive raft of special features, but really, does it matter? A certain, oft-quoted phrase involving a pig wearing lipstick comes to mind. If you’re still interested in picking up a copy after reading this review, here’s what you can expect to find on the disc: Commentary by Bullock, Cooper, Church, Jeong, Barker, and director Phil Traill; Deleted/Alternate scenes (with commentary); a duet between Jeong and Cooper (also, inexplicably, with commentary); the requisite gag-reel; an All About Steve behind-the-scenes featurette; and something called “Life After Film School with Phil Traill”, which earns my personal award for most ironically-named bonus feature ever. Oh, and there’s a second disc containing a Digital Copy, just in case you want to get back at someone. Conspicuously absent from this set: a length of rope to hang oneself with upon finishing viewing All About Steve.
In summation, I’d just like to point out that I like many of the people featured in this film. I’d heard the bad reviews going in, but I genuinely tried to keep an open mind upon inserting the Blu-ray into my player. Here we have a case where all the critics were correct (the film’s sitting at a lowly 6% on Rotten Tomatoes), and in fact may have been too easy in their savagery. All available copies of All About Steve should be rounded up and buried deep in that sinkhole with those deaf kids the critics were so worried about.
Scott Wampler is a standup comic, humor writer, and comedy news journalist. You can read much more of his stuff over at Examiner.com at the provided link. He can be contacted at ScottWampler44@yahoo.com, but will need several weeks to recover from the experience of watching All About Steve before he’s able to construct another readable sentence.