Saturday, February 02, 2008

Over Her Dead Body

OVER HER DEAD BODY (Jeff Lowell, 2008)

A falling ice angel crushes pushy bride Kate (Eva Longoria Parker) on her wedding day in the romantic comedy OVER HER DEAD BODY. Kate returns as a ghost with a mission to complete, but what she's supposed to do is a mystery. Turns out she is just as demanding and overbearing in heaven (or limbo or wherever she went after dying) that her orientation angel dumps her back on earth without a clue for how to proceed.

A year after her death Kate's fiancé Henry (Paul Rudd) is still moping around and only leaving his apartment for his job as a veterinarian. Henry's sister Chloe (Lindsay Sloane) decides that the cure for his misery is to take him to a psychic, who can let him speak to Kate and allow him to move on with his life. He reluctantly agrees to a reading with Ashley (Lake Bell), but nothing happens to persuade him to change his ways. Determined to shake her brother out of his funk, Chloe provides Ashley with Kate's diary so she can convincingly lie to Henry about communicating with his dead fiancée and direct him to make a new start. Neither of them foresees that Henry will choose to rebound with Ashley.

Highly displeased that another woman is after her man, Kate determines that her purpose is to keep Ashley away from Henry. She makes herself visible to the psychic, who seems as shocked as anyone to have actual supernatural contact.

OVER HER DEAD BODY is neither romantic or comedic, which is the all the autopsy needed to ascertain the reasons for the film's death on arrival on screen. Its shifting perspective doesn't divide loyalties. Rather, it keeps the audience from identifying with anyone. Whose story is the movie telling? At first it seems to be about Kate, yet she disappears for long stretches. More on the periphery of the action than the driving force, she pops up solely to disrupt things. Ostensibly the film is about how a deceased loved one can be an obstacle in a new relationship. In that sense, there's no need for Kate to be exist as a character, but without her there wouldn't be any wacky hijinks.

OVER HER DEAD BODY isn't Henry's movie either. He's an afterthought, the prize to be won in Kate and Ashley's battle. No chemistry was detected between Henry and Kate, and he doesn't seem broken up about being alone. From all indications, Kate was a horrible nag anyway. Talk about keeping the stakes exceedingly low.

I suppose that OVER HER DEAD BODY has to be Ashley's story, although it isn't entirely. The best case to be made for it being her film is because she's the only character with anything resembling an arc. Still, it's a strange decision to focus OVER HER DEAD BODY on someone with the least vested interest in what develops.

What little saving grace the film has comes via Rudd even though the actor couldn't appear more uninterested to be in this lousy movie. Rudd's apathy and decent one-liners breathe a little life into what is otherwise a corpse of a comedy. Whether making fun of cat owners or having a conversation with his pet bird, he's the only one to exhibit personality or a sense of humor. He pulls off the most ludicrous race to the airport climax in a film genre hellbent on staging the dumbest ways to build to a big finish.

If it were considered unseemly to speak ill of dead films, then the only thing to recommend about OVER HER DEAD BODY would be the lead actor's palpable indifference. Better to bury this sitcom-level movie and look ahead.

Grade: D+

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