Now that I've seen what many people consider to be one of the worst films of 2009, I don't honestly see what the fuss is about. Sure, All About Steve does have deficiencies, but it's unlike some of the other more conventional romantic comedies that were released this year. Hell, there's very little actual romance in this comedy. That said, it's the comedy itself that's the problem.
Written by Kim Barker (License to Wed) and directed by Phil Traill, Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) plays Mary, a crossword puzzle creator living with her parents in California. In retrospect, her character's mannerisms seems to be a mix of Milton from Office Space and Jim Carrey's Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber. This awkward geekiness prevents her from keeping a relationship. When her parents set her up on a blind date with Steve (Bradley Cooper, Wedding Crashers), a news cameraman, she feels an instant chemistry with him. It's only a pity that Steve doesn't feel the same way. Steve ends the date early due to a call from work, but not before saying--in typical guy fashion--that he wished she could join him. After a day of being smitten, she takes it to heart and follows him to each of the shoots he travels to.
Here's where things get a little dicey for the movie, as for the next hour or so, it tries to split the balance in two different films. One is about Mary, with her bright red knee-high boots, single-minded in her quest of being with Steve, her emerald castle of sorts. The other is Mary and her unique personality being a message of staying true to one's nature. Whether it's a truck driver (M.C. Gainey, Lost) or a couple of people taking a side in a child custody battle (Katy Mixon and DJ Qualls), Mary's boundless optimism is infectious among everyone she meets. This is due to what I'd consider an underrated comic performance from Bullock. She's goofy, speaks with a slight lisp, and does a lot of internal dialogues with herself. It would imply her character has dealt with ignorance from others a lot, and she's used to it. It's not that bad a performance.
Additionally, Cooper is decent, but when putting him together with his news team, anchor Hartman (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways) and producer Angus (Ken Jeong, Community), results in outstanding cohesiveness, not to mention some of the movie's funnier moments. In fact, those three, along with Mixon and a brief appearance by Charlyne Yi (Paper Heart), make for a quietly solid supporting cast. That's the good news; the bad news is that Jeong is underused in his roles, and Yi could have contributed far more than the film's creators allowed.
Oddly enough, while Bullock's performance isn't all that shabby, it feels a little too goofy. A different person in this role, say an Amy Adams or someone who could make Mary appear a little more nuanced, probably could have filled this movie with off-the-charts optimism. It could have been a good movie. That's the underlying problem; you've got people who have been funny in other recent films, but not this one. In All About Steve, there are a lot of missed targets.
With all this comic talent in the film going underused, the main problem lies with Barker's script. It's unfocused through the first two acts and in the third, seems to fall off the tracks completely, using a plot device that brings whatever humor the film had built up to a screeching halt. At the end, it's all of a sudden a message movie? Well, the Simpsons may have wanted to send their love down the well, but by the time All About Steve was done, I wanted to board up the hole so there weren't any survivors. In retrospect, it's still not a horrible film (based on Bullock and Church's performances), but it need a lot of work.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Fox gives All About Steve a 1080p AVC encode to go along with its 1.85:1 widescreen presentation. Overall, the image looks good, with accurate reproduction through most of the feature. Considering how the characters' skin spans the tanning spectrum, the film handles flesh tones well, and colors in the film look solid without over saturation. Black levels are solid through the film, and image detail is fair. Background image depth and detail are left a little lacking, but the film looks fine on Blu-ray.
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound (to go along with French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 lossy options), which doesn't really do anything for the film. Sure, there's a sequence when Bullock, Qualls and Mixon are driving to Steve's next shoot, and a twister comes through and tears everything up to remind you that you have a surround sound system. In addition, another sequence late in the film lets the subwoofer get in some time, but otherwise, most of what occurs is dialogue and an occasional soundtrack song. Bottom line, the lossless track gets to do sparse work, about as much as one would expect from a Sandra Bullock movie that didn't include an exploding bus.
To paraphrase, a wise man once said that when the extras on a disc are better than the movie, that says something about the movie as much as it does about the extras. A commentary with Barker, Traill, Bullock, Cooper, Church and Jeong starts things off. It doesn't really provide any valuable information about the production, but rather finds four people (along with Traill and Barker) making jokes while a film is on. They try to stay on topic, like how the script got to Bullock or some subtle nods to other things in the film, but Church, Cooper and Jeong dominate much of the track. Church has been a fun commentary participant in the past, and he continues his reputation here. Jeong (I believe) says that the trio should make another film together, even if it's U.S. Marshalls or something, because they got along so well together. Gentlemen, I heartily agree.
Next up are six deleted scenes (9:14) with optional commentary, though aside from a scene with Mary's mom, most of the remaining footage is the Ken Jeong/Thomas Haden Church show. A gag reel with optional commentary (5:29) is next, with some inside joke footage and some genuinely funny stuff. An a capella duet with Jeong and Cooper singing the film's title over and over (1:42) also has commentary, and this is funny and goofy in a karaoke way. "Hollywood Dish" (17:47) features a woman named Mina Micheletti (who looks an awful lot like Kerri Kenney-Silver of Reno 911! fame, who coincidentally appears in the film) doing a fake promotional piece for the movie. She interviews the cast and generally makes jokes at her expense, along with some others, but this piece, like the movie, is ten minutes too long. The real EPK, titled "All About All About Steve" (10:38) isn't all that better, but at least it's over quickly. "Crew Snapshots to Mary's Rap" (3:26) is a stills gallery of crewmembers on set, set to a rap song about Mary. Simple as that.
The most informational piece is an interview with Traill, conducted for the Fox Movie Channel show "Life After Film School" (23:42). It's nice to see the perspective of someone who discusses his early origins and what inspired him to be a director, and he recalls some anecdotes as a film student, while being interviewed by film students. It's a very interesting segment. Trailers for Whip It, Fame, Jennifer's Body, Adam and (500) Days of Summer close out the first disc, while a second disc includes a digital copy for MP3 players.
Well, All About Steve isn't horrible, but it is still bad. Which I guess would be the cinematic equivalent of "no, you're not going to die, but you're definitely going to lose a limb or two in the process of staying alive." Technically it's a decent disc and from an extras perspective, worth checking out for fans of Church, Cooper or Jeong, but I wouldn't shell out hard-earned cash to buy it for that privilege. Ultimately, wait for the three to do another film, so you can skip this.