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Movie Mom

Somewhere deep inside this movie, like the little tiny pea in the bed of the princess, is an idea that could have been an interesting movie. Unfortunately, as with that bed of the princess, it is smothered in 20 mattresses of awful and 20 more mattresses of just plain dumb. Warning: the screenplay is by Kim Barker, who was also responsible for the execrable “License to Wed.” Two strikes and Barker should be out for good.

Sandra Bullock produced, so she is responsible for both Barker and casting herself in the lead role, plays Mary Magdalene Horowitz, a cruciverbalist (constructor of crossword puzzles) who has gone way past endearingly quirky and well into the land of the annoying oddball. It could be kind of goofily charming that she wears the same red boots all the time. It could be sort of intriguing that she has some of that Adam-style social dyslexia. But instead she is the kind of person who recites endless random arcana and then, when told to be quiet, lists several entirely audible synonyms for silence. As happens so often in this movie, she gets the letter but not the spirit of what people are saying to her.

So, when she sees Bradley Cooper (the title Steve), a news station cameraman, she immediately jumps on him, which he quickly realizes is too good to be true. He scrapes her off like gum off the bottom of his shoe, and she then commits career suicide and follows him to a series of increasingly un-funny news stories he is covering. Even the always-welcome appearances of top character actors like Beth Grant (glammed up for once), Thomas Haden Church (as a cliched self-centered television correspondent), Ken Jeong (relatively calm for once), D.J. Qualls (bringing class to a barely-written role), and the delightful Katy Mixon (doing more than I would have thought humanly possible as a cliched hick) cannot breathe any life into this soggy story. The best that can be said about Cooper is that he escapes unscathed, a tribute to his true talent and star power.

Bullock is producer, too, and once again she seems to gravitate toward roles that run contrary to conventions of romantic comedy, and I respect that. She likes to play characters who are socially clumsy (“Miss Congeniality”) or incapable in relationships (“Forces of Nature”) and she does not always go for the happily ever after pairing off at the end of the movie. But here the story spirals past edgy into disturbing, with comic references to an infant’s deformity (and the idiocy of the public response) and an accident involving deaf children. While the film is making fun of the media circus about the rescue, it commits the same crime it is satirizing in its treatment of one of the children. The problem with this movie is not the cluelessness of Bullock’s character; it is the cluelessness of the script.

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