In “All About Steve” Sandra Bullock is Mary a nerdy cruciverbalist—that’s crosswords constructor to you and me—for a local newspaper in Sacramento. She’s socially awkward, lives at home with her parents, and has an editor who tells her to try and “be normal.” In addition, she’s terminally single and has poor impulse control but, hey, she looks like Sandra Bullock so life isn’t all bad.
Her parents, in a bid to one day have grandchildren, set her up on a blind date with Mark (Bradley Cooper), a cameraman with CCN. She says as long as he isn’t “expressly hideous” she’ll give it a go. Turns out something about Steve brings out the animal in Mary but when she says “I’m going to eat you like a mountain lion” four minutes into their first date he ditches her, saying that he has to leave town for work. She’s smitten—some would say obsessed—and goes off the deep end, handing in a crossword to the paper with the title All About Steve. Sample clue: What do Steve’s lips taste like? Answer: Mint Explosion. She gets fired from her job, which of course, gives her the time to hit the road and follow Steve from town to town as he covers news stories in Texas and Oklahoma. His feelings about her change—he realizes there IS something about Mary—however, when she becomes a news story.
“All About Steve” is kind of a light hearted “Fatal Attraction”—without the boiling rabbit. It’s a screwball comedy where the action is kick started by a misunderstanding. To that list of genres road trip flick and social commentary and you begin to maybe get the idea that this movie covers a lot of ground. Thematically it’s all over the place, but the one element that holds it together is its star Sandra Bullock.
Bullock isn’t playing her usual rom com character here; instead she builds a broad caricature of a chatterbox intellectual, which in the wrong hands could have been really annoying. It’s the kind of role Renee Zellweger would have rendered unwatchable, but Bullock, though sheer charm, pulls it off.
She’s cute. When she tries to slide down a banister, fresh out of the shower, still wrapped in a towel, with predictable results, it’s not a great gag, but she sells it, just like she sells every other silly moment in this kind of inconsequential but entertaining movie.
It’s all a bit harebrained—from the crossword metaphors and the “just accept people for what they are” moral—but a little charm goes a long way and Bullock is nothing if not charming.
The film also takes an unexpected—and not entirely believable—dramatic turn near the end that brings up echoes of Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole,” and points an accusatory finger at the 24 hour news cycle that turns stories into sensationalism. It’s a bit heavy handed but since the rest of the film is feather light it balances out.