Starring Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper and Katy Mixon. Directed by Phil Traill.
Rated PG (mild sexual references and coarse language). 98 mins.
There’s this cruciverbalist (played by Sandra Bullock). Her name is Mary Magdalene Horowitz (“I’m Jewish-Catholic, I’m pretty much set in stone”). She is super-smart and her head is filled with data on every subject — a bit like a cute version of Barry Jones. But she doesn’t have a job, apart from constructing the crosswords (that’s cruciverbalism) for the Sacramento Herald.
Her parents, despairing of her ever landing a husband, are forever setting her up with blind dates, which usually end in disaster because Mary, apart from being pathologically garrulous and gushing on ad nauseam, doesn’t click with any of them. But things change when her date turns out to be Steve (Bradley Cooper), a cameraman with one of the cable news networks (CCN, as if you couldn’t guess the acronym play).
She is instantly smitten by Steve’s winning smile, good looks and geniality, but she comes on so strong on their first date that Steve flees, claiming an urgent assignment to cover a hostage siege in Arizona. Mary is so love-struck that she constructs her next crossword “all about Steve”, and she ups and follows him, traipsing successively to Oklahoma (where he has to cover the controversy over surgical intervention proposed for a baby with three legs), Texas (a tornado) and Colorado (a class of deaf children fallen down an old mine shaft).
Steve tries to shake her off (he can’t decide whether she is a psycho or just a smart girl with red boots), but to no avail, and finally Mary herself becomes the central figure in one of the media circuses that the film endeavours to satirise.
Thomas Haden Church gives the film’s most enjoyable performance as Hartman Hughes, the egocentric news reporter at whom Steve has to point his camera most of the time. His modus operandi and that of the rival news crews scrambling to “scoop” one another does momentarily enliven what is otherwise a pretty feeble excuse for a romantic comedy.
Director Phil Traill delivers a perfectly well-crafted movie (the CGI tornado is very well done) but the trouble lies first in Kim Barker’s script, which isn’t really funny enough, and second in Bullock’s needlessly feverish performance. If she is super smart, why does she behave like an adolescent? The risk with this characterisation of a woman whose ceaseless chatter drives everyone around her to distraction (a driver stops a bus and puts her off, to the applause of other passengers) is that it may also have the same effect on the cinema audience.
Fox Out October 22
Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.