In the dreaded January – February movie slump, when the studios traditionally dump their less than a-list movies into theatres no weekend is more brutal than Super Bowl Weekend. Luckily this year the pickings are better than usual for this time of year.
The lone big release that was screened this week for the press is Over Her Dead Body, starring Knocked Up’s Paul Rudd and Eva Longoria-Parker of Desperate Housewives as his dearly departed who refuses to stay departed.
When the story begins Kate Spencer (Longoria) is very much alive. She’s a bridezilla to be, painstakingly double and triple checking every minute detail for her upcoming nuptials to handsome veterinarian Henry Mills (Rudd). After terrorizing the caterers and an ice artist (Stephen Root) hired to for event she is accidentally flattened by an ice sculpture.
Cut to one year later. Henry, looking for closure contacts psychic Ashley (Lake Bell) in hopes that she can put him in touch with Kate in the afterlife. When the séance fails, Henry’s sister takes matters into her own hands and gives Ashley Kate’s diary so she can fake communication with his former fiancée’s spirit and finally be able to move on.
The subterfuge works and soon Henry is ready to date again. He’s been flirting with Ashley during their sessions together so it makes perfect sense that they should hook up. Perfect sense to everyone except Kate who thinks Ashley is a “lying, cheating, red-headed hussy.”
As the movie’s tagline says, “Just because she’s passed on… Doesn’t mean she’s moving on.” Determined to protect Henry from Ashley the headstrong Kate returns to earth in ghostly form and makes the new girlfriend’s life a living hell. Of course, since Ashley is a psychic she is able to see and hear Kate even though nobody else can.
Over Her Dead Body is the kind of screwball supernatural romance that Hollywood used to churn out by the truck load. Stories of angels returning to earth to complete a mission have been a staple since the 1930s, but Over Her Dead Body updates the premise. IN this one the fallen angel isn’t a likeable sort out for redemption, but a foul tempered yuppie harridan much like the manipulative character Longoria-Parker plays on Desperate Housewives. The working title of the film says it all; originally it was called Ghost Bitch.
In the trailer it looks like Eva’s movie, and certainly she’s the biggest star in the cast, but her role is secondary to the main love interests Paul Rudd and Lake Bell.
Rudd, best known for his work with comedy maestro Judd Apatow, has an easy charm that lends itself to romantic comedy and Bell has the same kind of appeal as Cameron Diaz showed in There’s Something About Mary—she’s beautiful and goofy. The movie doesn’t have Mary’s ribald sense of humor—although it does contain the longest flatulence scene in movie history—but Bell is a good physical comedienne and isn’t afraid to take a pratfall.
The weak link here is Longoria-Parker, who as the vengeful angel, tries to channel Lucille Ball but ends up handing in a largely charmless performance.
Luckily the chemistry between Rudd and Bell keeps things interesting as they milk every laugh out of a script that is, at best, only mildly amusing.
Over Her Dead Body, however, has more laughs than that other recent high profile romantic comedy 27 Dresses and should be good counter programming for those wanting to escape football this weekend.