At one point in All About Steve, a babbling, irritating Sandra Bullock falls down a mine shaft. The tumble is an apt metaphor for what deserves to happen to the careers of anybody associated with this insulting, witless comedy, which is bad enough to overcome the recent wave of good will toward co-star Bradley Cooper, riding high after his turn in this summer's The Hangover.
Apparently a few filmmakers still believe that some deluded soul chasing an unwilling love interest around the country is the stuff of screwball comedy -- witness the recent Steve Zahn/Jennifer Aniston mess Management. All About Steve makes that lousy film look as sweet and clever and unique as (500) Days of Summer.
Management's stalker (Zahn) was a clueless motel clerk; Steve's premise requires us to believe its protagonist, crossword-puzzle creator Mary Horowitz (Bullock), is too brainy to fit in with normal people. But the film has no respect for the allegedly intelligent Mary. She's defined through her garish wardrobe (shiny red boots, butterfly T-shirt more appropriate for a 14-year-old, a flowery bathing cap) and odd behavior (talking to her pet hamster, leaping from the tub wrapped in a towel to go chat with her parents).
Truth is, Mary appears to be emotionally handicapped in a way that's neither cute nor charming and would be worrisome if you were her friend. Though you wouldn't be.
Not surprisingly, Mary has no social life outside her job at a mythical Sacramento newspaper where editors admonish staff to do ``less work.'' (No, they're not hiring.) So her parents set up a blind date with a friend's son, handsome cameraman Steve (Cooper).
Socially inept Mary sexually assaults him within seconds of climbing into his truck (to be fair, one can understand this impulse). A phone call from work saves Steve momentarily, but soon Mary is following his news team around the country, convinced he wants her with him, once even apparently taking a cab from Tucson to Oklahoma. She's encouraged by an egotistical reporter (Thomas Haden Church) who believes her colossally annoying habit of spewing information will help him land an anchor job.
All About Steve fancies itself as a commentary on the self-absorption of the media -- look at how far they'll go to get a story! -- but the jibes fall as flat as the jokes. One is tempted to feel bad for the usually likable Bullock -- who looks fantastic here, we must note -- but she's one of the film's producers, so she can't be too ashamed of herself. I am embarrassed for her, however. And for everyone who thought we needed to know anything about Steve.
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls.
Director: Phil Trail.
Screenwriter: Kim Barker.
Producers: Sandra Bullock, Mary McLagen.
A 20th Century Fox release. Running time: 99 minutes. Sexual content.
Thomas Haden Church is the hanger-on, Sandra Bullock the witless stalker and Bradley Cooper the focus of her affections. Suzanne Tenner/Twentieth Century Fox.