Sandra Bullock has a powerful screen presence and might yet be one of our great movie stars, but—even as a producer in charge of her own projects—she just can’t seem to steer her career in the right direction. She’s probably, understandably, tired of being “America’s Sweetheart,” but whenever she tries something else, it never quite fits. In All About Steve, she plays Mary Horowitz, a designer of crossword puzzles for a Sacramento newspaper. She’s extremely smart but socially graceless, incessantly babbling trivia. Wearing her big red boots, she seems confident and outgoing, but never listens to or understands other people. Bullock is still button-cute, but Mary’s annoying personality effectively eclipses that—at least until the heroic, happy ending in which Mary becomes a beloved hero.
On a blind date, Mary meets a cable-news cameraman, Steve (Cooper). Though he gently blows her off, she decides they’re meant for one another and shows up in the Midwest, on one of his jobs, to declare her love. Steve’s reporter partner (Church) thinks it’s all funny and tries to encourage her. She meets another weird guy, Howard (DJ Qualls), who seems just right for her, but before the movie can come to any romantic conclusions, it throws in a bizarre trapped-in-an-abandoned-mine-shaft subplot that is played alternately for satire, dark laughs and pathos. (Director Phil Traill, making his feature debut, never quite settles on a tone.) Bullock sells her part of the film, and Church throws in some good, hearty laughs, but ultimately, this is just an “eh.”