Reel Time
Dale Hill

            “Fasten your seat belts – it's going to be a bumpy night!” says Bette Davis as Margo Channing in “All About Eve.”

            That's also a pretty good warning if you find yourself watching Sandra Bullock's new sound-alike title, “All About Steve.”

            Movie criticism is frequently about expectations, and how they're met. We see the name of an actor, or director or writer whose work we've enjoyed in the past attached to a new project, and we think, that'll be worth seeing. Then we spend prolix paragraphs describing how we're either delighted or  disappointed.

            Just a few weeks ago I was enthusing about Sandra Bullock and her breezy new comedy, “The Proposal.” Then the poster for “All About Steve” showed up, and I thought: two Sandra Bullock comedies in one summer – great!

            Not great.

            I'm sorry to say that Bullock's appearance in this movie is a miserable miscalculation, and the movie itself an appalling mess.

            Bullock plays a character named Mary Magdalene Horowitz, and that's supposed to get a laugh, to give you an idea. Mary is a cruciverbalist for a Sacramento newspaper, which means she devises crossword puzzles. As such, she has millions of inconsequential facts running through her head and out her mouth, because Mary has the logorrhoea that's symptomatic of logomania , which means she can't shut the hell up.

            In a cleverly scripted effort this could possibly be funny, as in comically annoying. Here, alas, there is nothing comical about it. After she offends everybody on a bus, the driver tricks her into getting off and then drives off without her, to applause and cheers from the passengers, and you sympathize with the passengers.

            Mary is on a bus because she's stalking her blind date all over the country. The blind date, the Steve of the title, is a TV news cameraman (Bradley Cooper) whom she tries to rape as soon as they get in the car. He's saved by a call to go film a disaster out of state, so imagine his surprise when Mary shows up at disaster after disaster around the country. After a hostage stand-off and a pretty cool tornado most of the movie's time is spent with a hospital drama concerning a baby born with three legs in Texas (protesters are either “pro-leggers” or “anti-leggers”), and attempts to rescue a bunch of deaf kids who have fallen down a mine shaft  in Colorado. I don't know about you, but attempts to turn birth defects and handicapped children into subjects of low comedy just leave me feeling queasy.

            Adding to the queasiness is Bullock's appearance, with a blond shag haircut that was popular for about ten minutes during the Carter administration, and a costume that includes red vinyl go-go boots that become the focus of national news when she falls down the same mine shaft. (Janine Rath-Thompson is credited as Bullock's hair stylist, and she'd better head for the hills.)

             As a fan, I must say that Sandra Bullock never lets her energy flag, and gives the performance her all, but the script betrays her at every turn. The screenwriter, Kim Barker, has only ever scripted “License to Wed,” which Robin Williams couldn't save. His/her next project is titled “Coma Boy,” which gives me a sinking feeling that the comic medical motif is going to continue.

            I still think of Bullock as a talented actress and accomplished comedienne, and “The Proposal” supports my thesis. Unfortunately she seems to be hobbled by a chronic inability to pick good vehicles for herself, and the number of lousy movies for which she has also been producer (including the clumsy “Miss Congeniality” series) supports THAT thesis. I will faithfully go see (almost) every movie that she makes, hoping each time that it will equal her dandy guest turn on “The Muppet Show.”