All About Steve (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content including innuendos.
Length: 99 minutes
Grade: C+C-CC=C+
Budget: $15 million
Box Office: $42 million (34 U.S., 4 Intl., 4 DVD)

Written by: Kim Barker (License to Wed)
Directed by: Phil Traill (Guest director on TV episodes like Cougar Town, Kath & Kim, and 10 Things I Hate About You)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, and DJ Qualls.

Mary Horowitz is a socially inept crossword constructor who loses her mind when she is set up on a blind date with a sexy TV camera man. Losing her job after writing an unsolvable puzzle “all about Steve,” she stalks him around the country in the hopes of building a life together.

Entertainment Value: C+
On the one hand, a lot of the plot and the substance of this movie is remarkably idiotic. However, I laughed a lot. And I laughed in spite of my belief that Sandra Bullock was deliberately trying to be a female Michael Cera throughout this entire movie. It’s silly, but it’s fun.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity C, Violence C, Language D+
Early in the movie, Mary throws herself at Steve in an SUV. This is a fairly long scene with lots of groping and Bullock in a bra. Once you get past that, the rest of the movie is mostly sexual jokes without any more real sexuality. Language is medium and just about middle-of-the-road for a PG-13. Some people, including children, have their lives endangered by a mine collapsing, people survive a tornado, there is a fistfight, and one scene is built around whether a child born with three legs should have one amputated. I’d say R-15 is probably right for this.

Significant Content: B
Quirky people who don’t fit in still have a valuable place in this world. It’s better to be decent and kind than to be cool and beautiful. Practical jokes can turn in the wrong direction easily. Crosswords are cool. Obsessions are problematic. People can make an issue out of anything, even if it has nothing to do with them. The media is composed of self-absorbed, juvenile idiots.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Let’s all be honest. This isn’t a “thinking” film. This is a date movie, and, as such, it doesn’t really even pretend to be about art or thought value.

Discussion Questions:
~When a man behaves as Mary does, he is called a stalker or, at least, creepy. But when a cute and perky woman does it, it’s adorable. Does this double-standard bother you? How would you feel about Mary if you were Steve?
~What do you think of the decision by the newspaper editor to fire Mary in the beginning? What would you have done?
~Would it be fair to say that crossword constructing is an idol to Mary? When she says it’s her mission in life to bring the joy of crosswording to people, what do you think of that?
~What image of the news media does this movie present? Is it fair?
~How useful is it to be normal? Can you think of any advantages that come from being normal? Do you think the unending stream of movies promoting individuality and non-conformity are healthy for people to see?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The kids being disrespectful to Mary on career day. How did you react to that? What did you think of that teacher?
~The two camps protesting over the fate of the little girl’s third leg. What message was the movie trying to convey about this? Is it a fair criticism?
~The on-screen diagram of the person falling into the mine shaft. How fair of an image of the news media is this film presenting? Do you think a newsman who watched this film would ever stop to question his own practices? Do you ever feel embarrassed for news people when you see the ridiculous things they say and do?
Overall Grade: C+
It’s not quite as empty as cotton candy, but you aren’t going to find much nourishment here. Still, if all you want is some fun that’s just a bit vulgar, here you go. By the way, if you’re interested in a fascinating movie about crossword constructing, the documentary Wordplay is excellent.

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