Starring: Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd, Lake Bell, Jason Biggs, Lindsay Sloane. Rated PG-13.
Over Her Dead Body is
less about characters than stereotypes, thrust into a plot whose familiar
mechanics settle into a slow, discordant grind soon after the opening credits.
It is flawed on a fundamental level, forgetting that romantic comedies require
some degree of emotional investment; if the people on screen can’t commit to
the story, how can we?
Not that they don’t try. There is a desperate energy driving
the feud between Kate (Eva Longoria Parker), a wandering spirit who’s crushed
to death beneath an ice sculpture on the eve of her wedding, and Ashley (Lake
Bell, of Boston Legal), the wannabe
psychic who has designs on Kate’s onetime fiancÚ. Paul Rudd, as the
unsuspecting veterinarian caught in the middle, is more of a calming presence.
Best known as
the hopelessly deluded wingman from Judd
Apatow comedies like Knocked Up and The
40-Year-Old Virgin, Rudd approaches his
role with certain ironic detachment, as if distancing himself from the fallout.
Surprisingly, it works – his sly, understated sarcasm strikes a nice balance
with Bell and Parker’s overblown theatrics. He even lends a fleeting hint of
subversive wit to the proceedings, though Jeff Lowell’s flaccid script
undermines him early and often.
Rudd and Bell develop a playfully engaging banter that
Lowell, who also directed, gives room to breathe, and Over Her
Dead Body is a better movie for it. Bell radiates an
irrepressible charm that Parker, charged with the thankless task of playing a
spoiled, self-centered diva, is never given a chance to muster. The outcome of
Ashley’s unusual courtship is never in doubt – she and Henry, who seems far too
even-keeled to have fallen for an untamable shrew like Kate, are an easy match.
The more pressing question is how much of Kate we’ll be forced to stomach.
her untimely demise, Kate returns to earth intent
on saving her former fiancÚ from the dangers of moving on and promptly
sabotages his burgeoning relationship with Ashley. Kate is the jealous type,
defined by her selfish need to subvert Henry’s love life. What does she hope to
accomplish? Who knows? Even Kate seems at a loss to explain her motives, but
that’s to be expected in a movie that requires its characters to behave like
Ashley, who masquerades as a psychic, can communicate with
Kate, leading to sitcom-worthy situations that might have seemed funny on
paper. Kate spies on her in the shower. She tricks her into an embarrassing
scene at the gym. She even keeps Ashley awake at nights with tedious tales
about her childhood pets. At some point, someone should have had the good sense
to wonder whether anyone would want to watch this, much less find it amusing.