- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2009

“Al About Steve” originally was scheduled for release in March, but it got shelved. If its two leads hadn’t starred in three of the top-grossing films of the year, it might have disappeared directly to DVD.

Sandra Bullock, a producer as well as an actress, scored her biggest success in years — if not her career — with “The Proposal.” Bradley Cooper has been in not just one, but two Top 20 movies this year: “The Hangover,” the top-grossing R-rated comedy ever, and “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Bring them together, and you might think you have box-office gold — but even talented and preternaturally attractive people can’t entirely engross us without the help of a good script.

Miss Bullock stars as Mary, a quirky gal who’s underemployed constructing a crossword puzzle a week for a Sacramento, Calif., newspaper. She’s obsessed with words and trivia, which helps in her profession but not her personal life. “Just enjoy being normal,” her boss tells her when turning down her offer to do a puzzle a day.

She takes his advice to heart — sort of. She decides she needs a boyfriend, like normal girls have, and fixates on Steve (Mr. Cooper). Their parents have set up a blind date, and it actually goes well for the first few minutes. Steve finds Mary attractive and doesn’t mind when the undersexed woman pretty much jumps him in the car. When she ruins the mood by turning into a talking encyclopedia, though, he gives her the brush-off. Unfortunately, inexperienced Mary is oblivious and thinks this hot guy has invited her to follow him around the country as he chases disasters as cameraman to the ambitious newsman Hartman (Thomas Haden Church).

Kim Barker’s crossword-centric script has a certain amount of charm — but the stars have a lot more. Miss Bullock is irrepressibly winning here as a woman marching to her own drummer who wishes she had someone to help her keep the beat. One can’t judge the chemistry between the couple, though, because they aren’t given much of a chance to show any. Mr. Cooper is on the verge of becoming Hollywood’s hottest leading man, but he’s given little to do here besides look good. (Though his frosted tips detract a little from those looks — as does Miss Bullock’s unflattering blond dye job. Was this movie supposed to be set in the ‘80s?)

Most engaging is Mr. Church’s subplot. He sees a way to rile Steve — and gain some gravitas through on-air esoterica — by encouraging Mary to follow the gang, which includes a long-suffering producer (played hilariously by Ken Jeong). DJ Qualls is another supporting player who shines, as a fellow eccentric Mary picks up on her travels.

“All About Steve” — which certainly isn’t — has some funny moments, thanks largely to Miss Bullock’s knack for physical comedy. But this middling comedy is no match for the hits its leads starred in earlier this year.

★★

TITLE: “All About Steve”

RATING: PG-13 (sexual content, including innuendos)

CREDITS: Directed by Phil Traill. Written by Kim Barker.

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes

WEB SITE: allaboutstevemovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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