When she accepted her Razzie award for Worst Performance by an Actress in All About Steve, Sandra Bullock gamely arrived with a red wagon filled with DVDs of the movie, asking people to watch it and really consider if it was truly the worst turn or if perhaps they should rethink it.
And although I certainly can't speak for the Razzie voters, I can speak for myself and I'm brave and bold enough to admit that-- against popular opinion-- I actually thought that the flawed but well-intentioned Steve had a better ratio of laughs per act than Bullock's blockbuster summer smash The Proposal.
Riskily venturing into the now traditionally stage set realm of screwball comedy, All About Steve obviously derived its approach and off-the-wall spirit from Preston Sturges' sillier concept movies such as The Palm Beach Story along with the more ridiculous elements found in Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby.
Steve centers on Bullock's compulsively red go-go boot clad, off-the-charts IQ, trivia buff Mary who works as a newspaper “cruciverbalist” aka the crossword puzzle constructor for "The Sacramento Herald." Prone to talking aloud to her hamster Carol and obsessing over every minute detail, the movie introduces us to our lonely and overly literal heroine who longs to create puzzles that are “solvable, entertaining, and sparkle” on a daily basis.
Advised to “be normal” by her boss and forget about her delusions of Will Shortzian grandeur, Mary, whom we already suspect may suffer from something beyond obsessive compulsive disorder such as Asperger's Syndrome (as some critics have noted), finds herself in for a blunt wake-up call by a rude elementary school class.
Less interested in her role in creating crosswords and far more fascinated by the fact that the beautiful but klutzy chatterbox doesn't appear to have anything resembling a social life, it's the insistent judgment of the kids that talk her into not canceling the blind date with a news cameraman that her parents set up for her.
Expecting that he must be a closeted gay guy whose mother is trying to push onto any available woman, Mary dresses down until that is she sees the All-American attractiveness of Bradley Cooper's Steve standing in her entryway. Deciding to ramp it up, she puts on her rightest, clingiest and most see-through ensemble of underwear and little else and before he can form a complete sentence in the car, Mary's stifled sex drive goes into overdrive and she's all over Steve like a pen on one of her puzzles.
Not enjoying her form of random trivia chatter as foreplay, Steve comes up with a half-baked excuse to break the date and then utters the kind brushoff that becomes the kiss of death of telling her he wished she could be on his out-of-state assignment with him but he has to go.
Suffering from the intense heat of the moment that's textbook erotomania, after Mary builds a whole puzzle wherein the contents fit the title of this movie and loses her job, she begins chasing Steve around the United States, erroneously believing that he believes as strongly as she does that they're destined to be together.
While he refuses to lead her on, Steve's associate, the cocky newsman angling for an anchor position (Thomas Hayden Church) pulls Mary aside and tells her that the commitment phobic Steve won't mean anything he tells her and that she needs to be persistent to go get her “Steve on.”
Watching Mary chase after the news van both literally and figuratively from one outrageous news story to the next wherein all share the same common thread of centering on outsiders from a baby born with a third leg to deaf children does test your patience in how you view the film.
Essentially, just like the bystanders on both sides of the third leg issue in the film, Steve has been broken up into two camps. There are those who see the work as a movie about a flat-out crazy woman and others view it as a screwball misfire.
And while I obviously tend to go in the latter direction and acknoweldge that some of the Miss Congeniality and Forces of Nature tactics used by Bullock are weakening with every new film, All About Steve is nowhere near as bad as Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Lake House or Gun Shy. In fact, despite it's uneven tone, it's far more original than yet another “pretend to be my significant other” comedy like the high gloss blah of The Proposal.
Produced by Bullock and indicative of the peculiar and admittedly less than popular taste in some of her material, overall, if you watch Steve in the zany manner in which it was intended as our heroine soon realizes that in all her adventures she's really discovering herself as a human being without the blonde, beautiful pretty boy, I think you'll find yourself surprised to discover how funny the movie really is, even in spite of a few questionable choices.
And likewise, as far as the crazy charge went for Mary herself, she is the opposite of Jim Carrey's dangerous Cable Guy and more in the vein of Stiller's Something About Mary character with a bit of the overly intellectual Big Bang Theory meets Adam analytical, literal, and logical mindset that's unable to separate a man's subtle “get lost” line from an invitation to throw those boots on and join him across the United States.
Presented in a nice high contrast Blu-ray transfer of the film that does an impressive job of balancing the sun-drenched landscapes into a natural blend rather than going for the overly cheery, everything-in-focus phony comedy brightness, the Fox 2-disc edition also comes with a digital portable copy of the movie to laugh along with when you're taking a break from your crossword puzzle on a long commute.
And while overall, Steve would've benefited from a sharper rewrite in defining Mary as anything but a psycho stalker since she very well could've been Fox's second Asperger's character this summer after Adam, luckily even without that, Bullock knows physical screwball comedy inside and out.
In her hands, even something as mundane as forgetting the auto-lock feature and getting caught mid-clench in a seat belt or writing a driver's license number on her arm in case hitchhiking becomes deadly manages to make us remember just how good Bullock is in letting us trust her instincts as an actor to the point that we laugh along whether she's a beauty queen or one hell of a cruciverbalist.
Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.