The Orlando SentinelSeptember 4, 2009 

At times like this, it's good to think positive. That's what Sandra Bullock's socially inept crossword puzzle constructor does in "All About Steve."

So remember that Bullock staged a "comeback" with the summer smash "The Proposal."

Consider how good she looks. She can still weather big-screen close-ups and, at 45, can pass for 35.

But she can't pass for 30. And she's never been that good in dizzy, out-there roles. She might have learned that lesson with 1999's "Forces of Nature." Apparently not.

"All About Steve," an unfunny, annoying, badly written, badly acted comic fiasco, may be the worst movie in Bullock's career.

The screenwriter of "License to Wed" and an unheralded director with only a few forgettable TV sitcom credits serve up Bullock as a lonely word-freak, a smart, pretty woman still living with her parents in Sacramento, fretting over the once-a-week crossword puzzle she writes for the local newspaper. Mary chatters incessantly, is awkward around guys and blurts out her desire for sex at the drop of a hint.

A blind date with Steve (Bradley Cooper) causes her to trot out her sequined miniskirt, her favorite red go-go boots and her get-lucky red bra. Darned if in the middle of jumping Steve -- 45 seconds into their date -- Steve isn't summoned to work. He's a network TV news photographer, and he is more than happy to bolt this scary date.

But Mary Magdalene Horowitz (Jewish Catholic, which explains nothing) has all this trivia at her fingertips and Steve as her latest puzzle. Literally. She whips up a crossword that's all "Steve" clues. She reads the "signs" he has given her and sets out to be with him, because a relationship is like a crossword puzzle: "The worst thing you can do is leave it unfinished."

The only laughs in this road accident of a road picture come through the dulcet tones of Steve's on-air "talent," reporter Hartman Hughes, played by the peerless Thomas Haden Church. He's sexist and mean enough to lead Mary on just to anger Steve. He's vapid and pretentious, punctuating his reports -- from hostage situations, protests, hurricanes or children trapped in a mine -- with "Hartman Hughes, reporting from The Edge."

Mary's cross-country pursuit isn't funny, but then again, Mary isn't funny. It's rare that one actually feels sorry for a gorgeous, rich movie star. But Bullock earns our pity here. Mary is a miscalculation in almost every way, and the movie around her is worse: unfunny cameos, good actors wasted, bad actors given face time for no apparent reason.

"The Proposal" worked because it let Bullock keep her dignity. Mary is just pathetic. It's been 15 years since "Speed," and Bullock still can't see an accident like this coming?

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