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Sandra Bullock in 'All About Steve': When Good Actors Make Bad Choices

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There’s no need to linger over the awfulness of All About Steve my review was short but to the point. (The movie was shot in 2007, before Bradley Cooper became famous as That Cute Guy from The Hangover; you know the title wasn’t being kept on the shelf just so it could age like a fine wine.) But it’s worth talking a bit about what might have led Sandra Bullock — who not only stars, but also produced the misbegotten comedy — to have miscalculated so badly about what kind of project best suits her abundant strengths.

I’d feel more comfortable talking about the popular Bullock brand if it didn’t suggest she was a Chiquita banana or a Kleenex tissue. But even without a logo or a copyright, a “Sandy Bullock woman” in a “Sandy Bullock movie” is easily identifiable to her many fans: She may start out looking a little drab (While You Were Sleeping), or rough around the edges (Miss Congeniality) or uptight (The Proposal). But when she cleans up, her eyes sparkle and she dares you not to love her.

And therein lies a problem — especially for female stars, and especially for female stars whose brand characteristic is youthful cuteness: Getting older is a bitch. I mean, it shouldn’t be a bitch, and it doesn’t have to be. But I can understand how it might scare the red go-go boots off an actress who has read the box office reports about  audiences who love her best when she sticks to her giggle. I suspect Drew Barrymore can identify; certainly Meg Ryan knows what I mean. The irony is, our Miss Congeniality has it in her to be even more lovable, not to mention expand her range from the comic to the serious, in her ripe 40s and beyond. (You know where she was great, grown-up, and didn’t rely on laughs at all? Crash.)

My theory is that All About Steve was the rom-com Sandy Bullock chose when she panicked, and her charming, old-fashioned rom-com The Proposal was the project she took with a clearer head about her talents.

What’s your advice for this sunniest of girl-next-door stars?