February 4, 2008

Movie Review: Over Her Dead Body

I am sure it sounded like a good idea in the pitch meeting. What executive in his/her right mind wouldn't laugh at the idea of a dead woman haunting her still living fiance's new girlfriend? It sounds like it would write itself. I can see the people in the room getting all a twitter about making it happen. "Yes! This is a concept that was made to print money. Wait, it gets better, Eva Longoria has a break in her schedule and people seem to like her. Let's get her to star as the ghost, people will love it!" I am pretty sure that's how it went down, followed by a quick scramble to get the script written and in front of cameras in time to get it to the screen before Valentine's day. Well, they succeeded in getting that time table, the film is here. Now, whether or not it is worth taking the time to watch is something that you will need to decide for yourself. For my money, it's a little late now to change my mind.

The story begins with Kate (Eva Longoria Parker) running around making sure everything is perfect on her wedding day. She is the consummate perfectionist, everything has to be just so, so when she sees an angel ice sculpture arriving sans wings, she loses her cool. She demands that the sculptor (Stephen Root) take it back and stick some wings on it. Meanwhile, her betrothed, Henry (Paul Rudd), tries to keep evertyhing calm. It doesn't work as Kate seems ready to blow a gasket, then the unthinkable happens, the wingless angel falls from the back of the delivery truck right onto the incredulous Kate, crushing her. Now that gives us the dead body that was so cleverly alluded to in the title.

Jump forward one year, Henry is still pining for his lost love. All he does is work and go home, he has no other reason to leave his apartment. At the urging of his sister, Chloe (Lindsay Sloane), Henry visits a psychic, Ashley (Lake Bell), who moonlights as a caterer with her partner Dan (Jason Biggs). What follows is Henry half-heartedly making the attempt to take it seriously, while Ashley does what she can to make it look real. Believe me, there were signals flying, but they were not from the afterlife, so much as being generated by the two sitting across from each other.

Those signals do more than indicate a budding new romance, but the appearance of Kate's ghost. She is on Earth to take care of some unfinished business, which translates to "let's keep Henry by himself." And so it goes. Romance blooms, and Kate finds a way to keep them from being together. Until the end, that is, which you all should be able to see coming from miles away.

The problem with a movie like this is that they take the basic frame of the "plot" and just put up some sheer curtains to attempt to disguise the creaky premise. Writer/director Jeff Lowell must hope that everyone is distracted by the superficial sweetness that he puts up on the screen so that they do not think about what is being presented.

Let's take a look at some of the issues. There was one problem to hit me right as the movie began, and it has all to do with Kate. She is not a likable woman; she comes across as mean and vindictive. I cannot see someone like Henry falling for her, the two seem to be such polar opposites that the suspension of disbelief is a little hard to maintain. Then there is Ashley the psychic. Is she for real? Is she a fake? Prior to the appearance of Kate there is no indication as to the extent of her "abilities." Not to be forgotten is Ashley's business partner, Dan. What is his deal? The character does not really fit with the rest of the film, plus his "secret" is not much of one.

Lastly, let's take a look at the central conceit, the presence of the ghost. While ghosts can, apparently, walk through walls but are still able to cast shadows. Well, that's small stuff, what about asking the big questions? You know, meaning of life, what's God like kind of things. When the ghost of Kate does show up, it does not seem like much of a surprise. What the ghost amounts to is a plot device, pure and simple. There is no other reason for it being there. yes, it is part of the title, but it is not used for any special effect. It is as if Jeff Lowell wanted to write a romantic comedy but needed to find a device to create conflict. Bingo! Let's use the ghost of the hero's dead fiancee! Ugh.

Yes, it has a few cute moments and Paul Rudd has good chemistry with Lake Bell (not so much with Eva). That brings up the performances, they are about what you'd expect from the genre. Paul Rudd is, well, Paul Rudd. He is quite good with excellent timing and funny delivery. Lake Bell is cute, but the performance is adequate at best. And Eva? Well, she just feels unnecessary. She stands out as an "actress" as opposed to a character, there is no possible way to believe her as a character. I guess you can't win them all.

Bottomline. Awful? No. Harmless? Yes. It is that kind of movie. It is not awful, but it is entirely forgettable. There is nothing particularly special about the execution. It is just a stale diversion. You could do worse, but I cannot throw my heart behind it. Best bet? See 27 Dresses instead, it has a much sweeter heart.

Not Recommended.


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