Before I went to see All About Steve, I caught a glimpse of its rating on RottenTomatoes.com. It was at 5 percent, which makes it one of the worst-reviewed films ... ever.
As I watched the movie, which stars Sandra Bullock as an insane stalker, I couldn't understand why it was so hated. It wasn't very good, but it was far from awful, and I was getting some decent—if uncomfortable—laughs out of the thing.
By the time the movie ended, I understood that Tomato rating.
For most of the running time, director Phil Traill and Bullock constructed an almost-decent anti-rom-com, and seemed fully dedicated to making an awkward, sinister film. Since I sit through a seemingly endless stream of formulaic romantic comedies every year, I welcome one that dares to throw a rabid possum into the tub.
But the movie sells out in the end, in a manner so shameless and conventional that I cannot even come close to recommending All About Steve. The finale takes semi-inspired lunacy and turns the film into an absolute turd.
Bullock plays Mary Magdalene Horowitz, maker of crossword puzzles and wearer of crazy boots. She hasn't had sex in a long time and resides in her parents' home with her pet hamster. Mom and dad fix her up on a blind date, and she bemoans the notion. That is, until the date shows up, and he is the supremely hot Steve (Bradley Cooper, doing the best he can).
Sex-starved Mary attacks Steve in his van within minutes of meeting him. The words spewing from her mouth quickly override Steve's need for sex, and he bails, using his work as a news cameraman as an excuse. Steve says something along the lines of, "Wish you could be there!" out of fake politeness, and Mary takes this as an invitation.
Soon, Mary is following Steve as his news team stops over in Tucson for a hostage situation, Oklahoma for a three-legged baby, Texas for a storm, and Colorado, where a group of hearing-impaired children have fallen into a mineshaft. (They travel to all of these destinations in a news van, which would take many, many days.) Hartman (Thomas Haden Church), Steve's field reporter, finds Mary's stalking amusing, and therefore leaves her clues to their destinations as a prank. Steve is justifiably terrified.
You have to have some balls to try to squeeze laughs out of deaf kids in a mineshaft. Bullock's eccentric performance, while often annoying, is sometimes amusing. Church gets some good giggles out of being cruel, and Cooper does a nice job of acting scared.
Then the unthinkable happens: Traill and writer Kim Barker (who helped come up with the terrible License to Wed) construct an ending of impossible dignity and grace for Mary: Her supposed faults and criminal behavior are elevated into endearing qualities, rather than just being the traits of somebody who should be locked up. Traill actually tries to make the film a serious tearjerker, and this move is wrong, wrong, wrong.
There is no way in hell that All About Steve could work as a message movie, but that's what it wants to be in the end. I was almost impressed that superstar Bullock was willing to play a completely repugnant character—and then crushed to find out that she was trying to put one over on the audience. You see, nut jobs like Mary are to be embraced, because they are unique, and because they look like Sandra Bullock.
So, yeah, this is indeed one of the year's worst movies, and you can expect to be insulted and assaulted by its ultimate stupidity. There's a lot of talent involved, working with a script that betrays them in the name of sentimental hogwash.
For a moment there, I thought Sandra Bullock was pretty damned gutsy. As it turns out, she is a cinematic wimp.