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Movie Review

All About Steve

Stay away from this smitten stalker

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By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / September 4, 2009

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Whatever popular good will and box office credibility Sandra Bullock reestablished with this summer’s “The Proposal’’ is hereby undone - no, obliterated - with “All About Steve,’’ easily the worst movie of the week, month, year, and Bullock’s entire career. It is to comedy what leprosy once was to the island of Molokai: a plague best contemplated from many miles away.

In a spectacular feat of miscasting, the star plays a California fruitcake named Mary Horowitz who lives with her parents, constructs crossword puzzles for a living, and never stops yammering about the trivia that fizzes around her brain. Mary is supposed to be adorable. She’s not. She’s possibly the most irritating character I’ve ever encountered in a Hollywood movie. Five minutes in her presence produces only a searing pain in one’s frontal lobes and a primal flight response. The other characters understand this. Why don’t the filmmakers?

“All About Steve’’ is about what happens when this frantic oddity goes on a blind date with Steve, an easygoing cable-news cameraman played by Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover’’). Mary’s instantly smitten; Steve is instantly terrified. She devotes a crossword puzzle to him and gets fired. Steve and his blowhard news correspondent (Thomas Haden Church) leave town on assignment; Mary follows them from one disaster hotspot to another. That’s right: It’s a chick-flick for stalkers.

There have been others, but getting the tone right is extremely tricky. Kate Hepburn may have brought down Cary Grant and the house in “Bringing Up Baby,’’ but her character drives some people I know absolutely bananas: She never, ever stops. So, too, with Bullock, who at certain points in the movie just hops up and down like a Yorkie with a bladder problem. She’s an actress with an appealingly normal persona playing her idea of un-normal - a painful, even insulting display of “wackiness.’’

But could anyone have made a character out of this collection of tics? The script by Kim Barker traffics in the sloppiest satiric clichés of big bad media versus jes’ plain folks, and director Phil Traill deflates the comedy out of each and every graceless scene. Watching “All About Steve’’ is the entertainment equivalent of driving down the interstate on rims. By the final scenes, Mary has become a national folk hero by falling down a mineshaft along with a little hard-of-hearing tyke (Delaney Hamilton). “Come on, little deaf girl,’’ she says, “let’s go home.’’ She’s about 90 minutes too late.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

No stars

ALL ABOUT STEVE Directed by: Phil Traill

Written by: Kim Barker

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 99 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (sexual content including innuendos)

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