by Mel Valentin
If you’re in the mood for a generic, bland date movie, then look no further than "Over Her Dead Body," a tepid romantic comedy with a supernatural twist written and directed by Jeff Lowell ("John Tucker Must Die"). If you’re not interested in a generic, bland date movie, then "Over Her Dead Body" isn’t for you. It’s for the least demanding fans of the romantic comedy genre, fans eager for turn-off-your-brain escapism with a fantasy element, in this case, "Ghost" played for the most obvious of laughs. If that’s not enough to dissuade you from seeing "Over Her Dead Body," then, by all means, please read on. You won’t be disappointed. Or maybe you will, but you’ll only know the answer to that conundrum when you reach the last line of this review.Here’s the premise, in case you’re interested: Kate (Eva Longoria Parker), one of the worst examples of a controlling, demanding bride-to-be, dies on her wedding day after an argument with an alcoholic ice sculptor (Stephen Root) who forgot to give her ice angel wings. The ice sculpture falls off the truck, crushing a surprised Kate. Moments later, she wakes up in a white dress on a white slab in a white room, welcomed by a woman (Kali Rocha) who’s apparently a “real” angel. Understandably upset at the unexpected conclusion to her wedding day, Kate drives the angel away and is sent back to earth without instructions on how or why she hasn’t been granted access to heaven. She has unfinished business, but that obvious fact seems to have escaped her.
"A romantic comedy without the romance or the comedy."
Fast forward a year: her ex-fiancé, Henry (Paul Rudd), still grieves for Kate. Henry’s sister, Chloe (Lindsay Sloane), convinces him to see a psychic, Ashley (Lake Bell). Chloe hopes Ashley can help Henry move on with his life. A natural skeptic, Henry has little faith in Ashley’s ability to communicate with Kate, but gives in to his sister. Almost immediately, sparks fly between Henry and Ashley, helped in part, by Kate’s diary. Kate, however, hasn’t gone anywhere. She seems convinced that she’s still around to protect Henry from unsuitable romantic partners and sets out to haunt Ashley, the only person capable of seeing Kate in her ghost form. Ashley, however, isn’t easily deterred, setting up a string of confrontations with the increasingly desperate Kate.
Lowell seems to know the romantic comedy formula inside and out. Unfortunately, what he doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to try) is how to stretch the formula so Over Her Dead Body doesn’t feel like every other romantic comedy that’s come out over the last twenty-five years. Not surprisingly, it’s easy to figure out where Over Her Dead Body is going to end up. Lowell’s formulaic, by-the-numbers screenplay even gives Ashley a gay best friend, Dan (Jason Biggs), who co-owns a catering company with her. Dan’s around to listen, offer the occasional bit of uninspired romantic advice and, when all else fails, throw in a surprise that comes (almost) out of nowhere. It's the one genuinely surprising plot turn in a film littered with non-surprises, each one more (or less) banal than the last one (or the next one).Formulaic storytelling, however, can be overlooked if the formula delivers a steady stream of laughs (we can forget tension or suspense for now). Sadly, "Over Her Dead Body" is as unfunny as it is formulaic. Every time Lowell slips his characters into circumstances or complications with promise, he undercuts himself by failing to include more than one, slightly stale joke per scene instead of pushing scenes and characters into outright farce. Heck, more physical comedy couldn’t have hurt, only helped. A woefully underused cast probably would have been up to it, but he probably didn’t ask and all they were left with were reams of uninspired dialogue. If, after all this, you still want to check "Over Her Dead Body" out, then there’s probably no (okay, little) hope for you.
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originally posted: 02/01/08 09:00:00