February 7, 2008

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Over Her Dead Body (PG-13)
A dead Eva Longoria Parker haunts her fiance’s psychic new girlfriend in Over Her Dead Body, a comedy that, hey, whatdaya know, isn’t so bad, really.

Kate (Parker) is bridezilla-ing the reception staff as she prepares for her wedding, leading to a tragic wedding day accident in which is killed by an ice sculpture of a wingless angel. (The phrase “crushed by an angel” is repeated several times in the movie and, I must admit, even now, just thinking about it, I giggle a bit.) A year hence and her would-be hubby Henry (Paul Rudd) is still glum. His sister Chloe (Lindsay Sloane) daffily tries to take him out of his funk by talking to Ashley (Lake Bell), a psychic who Chloe hopes will channel a message from Kate to Paul telling him to move on. Ashley, however, is only a part-time psychic — the other part of the time she’s a caterer — and at her first meeting with Henry, she gets no messages from beyond. Chloe urges Kate to improvise a bit and take details from Kate’s diary to convince Henry that she’s “among us” and wants him to be happy. It’s about then that Kate really returns to the scene as a ghost that Ashley can see and hear with perfect clarity — clarity that grows all the more annoying when Kate starts a campaign of pestering Ashley into ending her growing relationship with Henry. But Ashley decides that she shouldn’t let a dead woman stop her from getting the man of her dreams, even if that dead woman is determined to stay up all night telling her stories about childhood pets and listing her favorite colors and numbers.

Maybe it’s only because I went in expecting 90-plus minutes of nothing but pain, but all these rehashed dead-people-return, afterlife and romantic comedy plot devices meld to create quite a bearable movie. I officially give up trying to not like Paul Rudd in bad movies. Perfect in solid films like Knocked Up, Rudd manages here to be equally winning. He hits just the right note with his delivery — some superb mix of dry humor and not really giving a damn. I hated Lake Bell in Boston Legal but here her blend of goofy klutziness and down-to-earth Everygirl-ness works. And Eva Longoria Parker is, well, she’s Gabrielle from Desperate Housewives, but she’s Gabrielle with a fire and perky-bitchy sass that her character on TV hasn’t had in a long while.

The writing wasn’t hilarious but it had its moments of actual funny and if I didn’t laugh out loud I certainly snickered. Bell and Parker have surprisingly OK chemistry. It occurred to me that women in movies seem to either have blood hatred or a particularly International Coffee kind of sappy friendship. Despite the “you can’t have my man even though I’m dead” premise of their relationship, their interaction was more funny than fighty, more mischievous than mwah-ha-ha-ha.

I feel reluctant to praise, or at least to not-damn with faint criticism, this film for fear that you might read this review, expect a good movie and leave feeling like you just paid a large-one-topping-pizza amount of money for a sitcom-level movie. So forget everything I just said. This movie is awful, expect the worst, but see it anyway and you will be pleasantly surprised with a C+.

Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Written and directed by Jeff Lowell, Over Her Dead Body is an hour and 35 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by New Line Cinema.