Sandra Bullock has had a banner year. She's been in one minor hit (The Proposal), one mega-box office champ (The Blind Side) and is being heavily touted for a potential Oscar nod for her work in the latter. She garnered two Golden Globe nods for each and was just named 2009's Top Earning Star, beating out such able competition and Johnny Depp and George Clooney. So who cares if she was also responsible for one of the most reprehensible, incomprehensible movies of the last 12 months? While The Proposal pulled in over $300 million worldwide, and The Blind Side has done $200+ and growing, it doesn't matter that the miserable All About Steve bombed at about $34 million. What is of concern is how crappy the movie is, how awkward and irritating Bullock's crossword puzzle creator protagonist is, and how genuinely junky the whole pointless experience becomes over 90 noxious minutes.
Mary Horowitz (Bullock) is the ultimate geek. She still lives at home with her concerned parents. She works as a cruciverbalist (a creator of crossword puzzles), and she's never really had a serious relationship. About the only reason she's not a spinster is because no one has the guts to call her such a mean name to her always bright and obnoxiously chipper face. When she meets a news photographer named Steve (Bradley Cooper) on one of her many blind dates, she instantly falls in lust...and then love. He, on the other hand, senses a human train wreck in his presence and immediately calls off their potential coupling. Becoming obsessed, Mary decides to stalk Steve all around the country, catching up with him and the TV journalist he works for (Thomas Hayden Church) at various events around the country. When she becomes the news, however, attitudes about her pushing proclivities suddenly shift.
Oh boy. Even on Blu-ray, there's not much to celebrate about All About Steve. With our semi-superstar behind the scenes as Producer and all around creative guide, this is either an act of unqualified career suicide or a mistaken plea for some 'beyond the bumbling RomCom' acceptance. Either way, Bullock doesn't succeed. Instead, the movie is like one massive gamble, a double dare spit in the eye at the audience challenging them to take Mary for what she is - the dorkiest, dimmest, most socially and romantically inept human being since nerds first battled jocks for high school clique domination. Screenwriter Kim Barker (also partially responsible for the equally reprehensible License to Wed) spends to much time turning Mary into a series of awkward idiosyncratic quirks and patented personality flaws that she can't find time to create any other three dimensional characters. This leaves actors like Church and Cooper struggling to make something out of their flat, lifeless roles. They can't.
Similarly, director Phil Traill proves why the vast majority of his credits have been one-off work for various failed TV sitcoms and hour long dramas. He timing is off by about 27.5 frames a second and he never met a punchline he couldn't pull by a badly situated set-up. When Mary first meets Steve and basically throws herself at him sexually, it could have been a friendly, farcical comic moment. Instead, Traill turns it into something to be pitied, a clearly unstable woman making a libidinous fool of herself in front of a man who, at least initially, isn't beyond taking full advantage of her. Similarly, Church's egomaniacal media star constantly plays with Mary's emotions and personal safety. If it wasn't for the expositional arrival of some equally forced fringe dwelling stereotypes (DJ Qualls as a tentative tech head, Katy Mixon as a bubble headed bimbette) his actions would be almost criminal. Indeed, a lot of what happens in All About Steve is so unbelievable and unrealistic that when the third act stretches for some authenticity, the movie eventually bends, then breaks.
Of course, by that point, you've already made up your mind. You've either bought Bullock as the lamentable lonely hearts case marginalized by a world that just doesn't get her numerous insular eccentricities, or you want to kick the TV screen out of flat-out frustration. Perhaps within a different dynamic, beyond the out of her league lead who believes she is finally giving a "performance" vs. a well thought out Access Hollywood star turn, this might work. Maybe a less self-conscious actress could find her way around Barker's nut burger burlesque. That, of course, assumes that there are other elements outside the film's cinematic center worth caring about and that's just not true. All About Steve is a movie that needed to be smaller, to be less about the wacky madcap adventures of its grating, irritating lead and more about the many reasons for her sheltered, insecure demeanor. Instead of a big budget farce it should have been a low budget character piece. The parts are in place for something insight about the human spirit and the social reaction to same. Instead, we get a dithering, dopey waste of time disguised as a daring A-list turn.
You'd expect a modern movie, made with modern technology and then transferred onto the most modern (currently) of digital formats would look pretty good, and for the most part, All About Steve does not disappoint. The MPEG-4 AVC encoded image, offering a 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen experience, provides excellent detail and colors, with a few minor drawbacks. The color palette is a little askew, the skin tones suffering as a result. We get lots of unnatural bronzing amongst the cast, like they all spent too much time in a tanning bed before hitting the set. There are also some moments of softness (usually associated with glamorizing Ms. Bullock) and some harshness in the contrasts. There are also a couple of moments of obvious CG tweaking. While not quite a recreation of the theatrical experience, this is still a decent blu-ray presentation.
Since it is mostly dialogue driven, there is little for the amped up DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track to deliver...at least, initially. During a couple of what passes for the film's "action" sequences (a run in with a tornado, the last act media event), the back channels really do open up, providing a semi-immersive experience where you actually hear the weather whipping around you. There are also interesting ambient elements (nature, crowd noises, background conversations) that make excellent use of the multichannel treatment. The French, Spanish, and Portuguese mixes are all standard Dolby Digital 5.1, and the blu-ray also offers subtitles in the aforementioned languages, as well as in English SDH, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
If you like commentaries - or what the cast and crew of this film pass off as in-joking commentary tracks - you'll really enjoy the Blu-ray of All About Steve. Not only do you get a main discussion featuring director Traill, writer Barker, and stars Bullock, Cooper, Church, and Ken Jeong, but the deleted/alternate scenes, gag reel, and some oddball A Capella duet between two of the stars all feature optional narrative takes. All are more entertaining and witty than the movie being supplemented (all except the Cooper/Jeong song - it's dreadful).
There are also two behind the scenes featurettes - one fake, one real - that provide both a comic (or what someone thought was comic) and serious backstage glimpse at the film's creation. The false offering features someone named Mena Micheletti running around like an idiot interviewing the cast and crew. She will try you patience. The other is a typical EPK, 'isn't this fun' attempt to sell the movie. It's intriguing, but superficial. All of these bonus features are offered in 1080p, by the way. The final extras - Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School with Phil Traill - is in standard definition, and gives the director a chance to acquit himself. For the most part, he does. Toss in about five minutes of Blu-ray quality trailers and a digital copy of the film, and you've got more added content than All About Steve truly deserves.
Wavering somewhere between virtually intolerable and literally lame, All About Steve should/could be Ms. Bullock's Norbit. Remember when Eddie Murphy was a lock for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Dreamgirls? And remember when he pissed that all away to make some absolutely insane minstrel show comedy featuring another free range fat suit turn? Luckily, Mary Horowitz may not be the performance albatross that "blind sides" our star. But as a showcase for her character actress talents, this movie makes a strong case for driving a bomb-ridden bus. Earning an easy Skip It, this is for the most dedicated Sandra Bullock purist only. If you were inspired by her latest awards season turn, or have enjoyed her in other Romantic Comedies, steer clear of this talentless turkey. It's too dopey and dull to be taken seriously.
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