All About Steve
PG-13
Entertainment: -1/2
Acceptability: -4

Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper. Comedy. Written by Kim Barker. Written & directed by Phil Traill

FILM SYNOPSIS: Sandra Bullock plays eccentric crossword puzzle constructor Mary Horowitz who, after one short blind date, falls for handsome cable news cameraman Steve (Cooper).  Convinced they are soulmates, Mary follows Steve across the country, encouraged by the self-serving actions of news reporter Hartman Hughes (Church).  Along the way, Mary befriends an endearing group of oddballs who embrace her idiosyncrasies - forcing her to rethink her entire journey.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I always wonder when I see a mess like this, and oh my is it a mess, do those involved at one point know just how bad it is? Ms. Bullock is pretty in a miniskirt and boots, she looks ten years younger than she is, and she is gifted. She’s today’s reigning queen of romantic comedy, this era’s Doris Day. I’ve seen her convincing in dramatic form (Crash), and in action adventure (Speed), and adept with some funny situations (Miss Congeniality). But if you were the head of a major Hollywood studio and this was your introduction to Sandy, methinks Sandy wouldn’t get hired again. Like the premise, she is off kilter as an obsessed author of crossword puzzles. Like a savant, her character is brilliant in one area, but lacks any social graces in all other areas of life. The guy she forces herself upon is right to get away from her. She’s uncontrollable, coming across as a stalker. What’s more, though we are supposed to like her, the supporting characters doing their best to convince us that her eccentricities are cute and charming, we don’t like her. She leaves us the audience as uncomfortable as the man she pursues.

It was held back from distribution, evidently because someone in charge was aware of its comic inadequacies. But this summer, both Ms. Bullock and Mr. Cooper had screen hits (The Proposal in her case, The Hangover in his). So to capitalize on their successes, the studio has subjected moviegoers to an embarrassing 90-some minutes of bad performances, lame direction and a silly script that leaves us longing for a high school production of Flower Drum Song.

This film deserves more flagellating, but it’s taken up enough of our time. Since it will no doubt make my list of 10 worst films of the year, rest assured, more flogging is forthcoming.

DVD alternatives: Wordplay. Will Shortz, the impish crossword puzzle editor at the New York Times, has spent his entire lifetime studying, creating, and editing puzzles, and has built a huge following along the way.  This is his story, and that of those addicted to word games. Shortz’s die-hard fans include President Bill Clinton, Senator Bob Dole, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, filmmaker Ken Burns, the Indigo Girls, and Yankee’s ace pitcher Mike Mussina – each seen here in revealing confessionals.

Who would associate revealing, involving, or funny with a documentary about crossword puzzle players? Surprisingly, the production values, direction, pacing and humor make for an insightful movie. What’s more, there may be a built-in audience for this documentary (over 50 million Americans do crosswords every week). That said, I would not put this in the league with the dramatic Akeelah and the Bee or the nature study March of the Penguins, both of which inspired. Akeelah bettered her life and drew her community together through her commitment to language use, while the penguins communicated the sanctity of life. Wordplay is more a curiosity, as it spotlights self-described geeks whose world revolves around word puzzles.

Since the film is seen from the perspective of Will Shortz, who works for the New York Times and National Public Radio, the film proclaims those organizations as being the best news outlets in the world. Hmmm.

PG (Shortz reads some derogatory mail he receives, one calling him a smart ass, another uses the minor expletive hell; a gay couple kiss; leading up to the finale, the 26th annual crossword tournament, we get to know several contestants, including one gay man and his lover; during an interview, he leans over and kisses his life partner; not long ago, that shot would have generated a startled reaction from a straight audience; but since the visual has become more commonplace, no reaction was heard at the screening).

Or try renting: A New Leaf. Walter Matthau is a spoiled rich, confirmed bachelor who has run through his money and must marry or face penury. Elaine May is the klutzy woman he plans to wed, then kill in order to gain her riches. But loves prevails. Though rated G, I believe there were a couple of inappropriate words, but nothing like most of today’s movies. Not a great film, but often humorous. What it has going for it is Matthau and May. Both are funny. One wonders if Bullock, Haden-Church or Cooper have ever watched their work.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Summary
Crude Language: A few crude sexual remarks by the lead.
Obscene Language: Ten or so obscenities, mostly the s-word.
Profanity: Five misuses of Christ’s name.
Violence: Some pratfalls and people fall into a mineshaft; none of the characters is injured.
Sexual Intercourse: One sexual situation as the lead, unhindered by social correctness, suddenly jumps on her blind date; both stripping off their clothing; during this scene, there are several sexual remarks; while this is played for laughs, neither the guy, nor we think it’s very funny.
Nudity: The female lead is seen in provocative clothing in one scene; we see her in a bath, bubbles covering most of her body.
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Some drinking.
Other: None
Running Time: 98 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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