Mark Reviews Movies

OVER HER DEAD BODY

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Jeff Lowell

Cast: Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd, Lake Bell, Jason Biggs, Lindsay Sloane, Stephen Root

MPAA Rating:  (for sexual content and language)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 2/1/08


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Review by Mark Dujsik

The top-billed star of Over Her Dead Body dies within five minutes of her first appearance, and if the majority of the other characters in the movie suffered a similar fate, I wouldn't have complained much.  The unfortunate part of that scenario would be that, like our star, those other characters would come back in the form of ghosts just when we started to forget about them, suddenly being able to spread their own deception, lack of charisma, and complete and total selfishness anywhere and at any given time.  So I suppose it's better that only one central character here shuffles off the mortal coil to enter the eternal realm of terrestrial limbo to cause misery with greater accuracy in the afterlife.  The rest of the characters do enough of it while alive.

I'm not sure when it became the standard for characters as unappealing as these to be the occupants of hopefully happily-ever-after romantic comedies like this, and when they're as bad as this lot, the attempt to make them merely quirky makes them even more cumbersome.  While one of them should just move away to find normal society, the rest deserve each other, but we don't deserve them.

On the day of her wedding, Kate (Eva Longoria Parker) is ordering around wait staff and generally trying to take control of everything, while her fiancé Henry (Paul Rudd) tries to calm her and get her to just let things go.  Turns out, Kate has a hard time letting go, but we aren't offered the privilege of watching her controlling nature on the temporal plane for long.  A drunken ice sculptor (Stephen Root, the current king of cameos; here he's once again underused) brings her an ice sculpture of a wingless angel, which Kate thinks should have wings, so she orders him to get the statue some wings before the ceremony that day.

Kate notices that the sculptor is about to back in to her flowers and does the only thing a sane person would do: She runs behind a reversing truck to try to stop it.  Obviously, she dies.  A year later, Henry still isn't over Kate (In reality, that would probably be true, but considering the little we've seen of her character, it seems unlikely).  His sister Chloe (Lindsay Sloane) brings him to a psychic Ashley (Lake Bell) so he can try to communicate with his dead fiancée and find closure.

That Henry and Ashley hit it off should be obvious to everyone.  Ashley's psychic abilities are real, or at least they are when the deceased fiancée of the man with whom she starts a relationship is involved.  That Kate's ghost comes back to prevent their relationship should be obvious to anyone who has seen ads for the movie or is curious about why an actress whose character dies within five minutes gets top billing.  Kate's plan is simple: Haunt and otherwise irritate Ashley until she finally gives up on Henry.  So we get a bunch of unimaginative gags.

Kate pretends to be a client possessed by a ghost and levitates.  She makes Ashley believe there's a fire at the gym while she's in the shower, causing the psychic to run naked on to the gym floor.  Kate keeps Ashley awake all night talking about her former pets and later tries to distract her as Ashley and Henry are about to have sex for the first time.  It's routine stuff with some pratfalls thrown in for mediocre measure that ends up without laughs.  Part of the problem is that Eva Longoria Parker's screen personality and sharpness as a comedienne are inversely proportional to her looks, but the majority of it is a lazy script.

The basics of the story are harmless enough—unimaginative, too, yes, but still harmless.  Writer/director Jeff Lowell doesn't leave it there, though, and what should be innocent stuff instead has an unfortunate unpleasant streak.  A key plot point I've yet to mention before Henry and Ashley begin their relationship has Chloe bringing Kate's diary to the psychic.  Ashley can use the information within it to tell Henry things about Kate about which only he would know, making it easier for her to help him move on.  So Kate, as disagreeable as she is, has a point in trying to keep Ashley and Henry apart.

As usual, the diary becomes the catalyst for the inevitable complications that will arise in the relationship, and we can pretty much disregard Chloe, Ashley, and Kate as characters we want to find happiness as a result.  Whatever lesson we're supposed to learn about either Ashley or her gay assistant Dan (Jason Biggs) when he reveals a long-kept secret is probably best left unexplored.  Meanwhile, Henry's fine, and Paul Rudd is such a smartass in every moment, one has to wonder if it goes beyond how the role was written and into Rudd simply mocking the script.

Over Her Dead Body does feature an incredibly strange Chekhov's gun: A parakeet that's established as being unable to talk in the first act will become the vessel for the ghost to communicate with her former fiancé in the third act.  The rest of the movie is as bland, and when the "A film by" credit hovers above the entire cast and crew in the final credits, one could see it either as a generous gesture acknowledging the collaborative effort that is making a movie or as sharing the blame.

Copyright © 2008 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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