September 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'All About Steve' -- GRADE: D+

'All About Steve' stretches belief

Thomas Haden Church, left, Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper don't have much to work with in this screwed-up screwball comedy. (20th Century Fox)

A screwball comedy missing more than a few crucial screws, "All About Steve" is one of those films that seems to be constantly reaching for something and constantly missing whatever that something is.

Disjointed and preposterous from the beginning, this story about crossword puzzle creator Mary (Sandra Bullock) who falls instantly in love on a blind date with news cameraman Steve (Bradley Cooper) and then stalks him across the country as he races from assignment to assignment, relies completely on Bullock's charm to work.

But throughout her career -- from "Speed" to "Miss Congeniality" to "The Proposal" -- Bullock has been successful at putting quirky on normal people. Having her play a complete oddball -- Mary is a walking, nonstop-talking encyclopedia who always wears red boots -- pushes things overboard.

Then again it's hard to imagine who could have made this character either sympathetic or believable. Director Phil Traill and screenwriter Kim Barker don't help their case by giving her no serious means of income, a vacant love life -- she's Sandra Bullock, for heavens' sake -- and an obsession with crossword puzzles that plays purely to the literate.

Along the way, Mary makes oddball friends (DJ Qualls, Katy Mixon), prays for a three-legged baby and gets tossed about in a tornado, all building toward the rescue of a group of deaf children from a cave mine.

Most of the laughs come from Thomas Haden Church as an oblivious newscaster. But overall, "All About Steve" is just another good example of talent squandered on an idea that was probably wrong in the first place.