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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.56%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad64.1%
Total Crap: 33.33%

6 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Over Her Dead Body
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by Peter Sobczynski

"So Bad, You'll Think Fox Made It."
1 stars

“Over Her Dead Body” tells the story of an obnoxious and thoroughly unpleasant woman who dies in the first scene and still continues to annoy and aggravate long after she has shuffled off this mortal coil. Unfortunately, as anyone who encounters it during its certain-to-be-brief theatrical run, it turns out that the film itself suffers from the same condition as its central character. Although the appearance of last week’s “Meet the Spartans” means that it has no chance of being regarded as the worst comedy of the still-young 2008, I have no doubt that it will certainly go down as one of the top runners-up. This is a film that is so thoroughly laugh-free that if the film studios wanted to sway public opinion towards the writers strike in their favor, all they would have to do is sponsor free screenings and remind viewers that the people who wrote it are members in good standing with the Writers Guild.

The film opens with the final preparations for the nuptials between Henry (Paul Rudd) and Kate (Eva Longoria Parker), a shrill control freak whose fetish for micro-managing every detail of her wedding makes Katherine Heigl’s character in “27 Dresses” seem normal and well-adjusted by comparison. Alas, this obsession proves to be her undoing when an argument with a drunken ice sculptor (Stephen Root) over a wingless angel that he has carved for her ends with her being crushed to death under said sculpture. Considering the fact that what little we have seen of her would be enough to place her on the list of the most annoying movie characters of recent years, you would think that Henry would be doing cartwheels over having dodged such a bullet but for some inexplicable reason, he is despondent over the loss and lets his personal life go downhill as a result. After a year, flaky sister Chloe (Lindsay Sloane) decides that the best way to get him to finally move on with his life would be to have him see a psychic, Ashley (Lake Bell), in order to contact Kate in whatever circle of Hell she is presumably basting in. Ashley is not a very good psychic by any means but thanks to Chloe’s surreptitious delivery of Kate’s heretofore unknown diary, not to mention the way she looks in a low-cut dress, she not only convinces Henry that it is time to move, she also convinces him to do the moving with her.

The only hitch in this plan is that Kate’s ghost is still wandering the Earth as the result of some mysterious unfinished business that she has to figure out and deal with before fully being assumed into the darkness. Because she has even less of a soul than before, she naturally assumes that her unfinished business requires her to make sure that her former fiancee is never happy and never knows the love of another woman–in other words, she wants his life to be pretty much what it would have been like if they actually had gotten married. While stalking Ashley, Kate discovers that her corporeal rival for her ex’s affections can actually hear and see her after all and begins a reign of psychological torture that will only stop when she dumps Henry for good. Inevitably, this leads to an endless series of scenes in which Ashley reacts in public to the otherwise unseen and unheard Kate’s pranks while Henry and everyone else in eye/earshot look at her as if she is nuts. In news that will no doubt stun you to the very depths of your soul, the whole thing ends in an orgy of shocking revelations (Henry discovering Kate’s diary in Ashley’s possession), bizarre changes in attitude (Kate realizes that maybe she is supposed to let Henry move on after all while Chloe goes through so many shifts in character that you start waiting for people to call her “Mitt”) and finales in which all the characters make their various declarations of love in crowded public areas in front of countless numbers of deeply fascinated bystanders. Of course, this is the first time that I can recall one of those finales in which one of the key players was forced (don’t ask) to talk through a bird–a fitting choice, in hindsight, since anyone who has sat through the film up to this point will probably be offering the characters a bird or two of their own.

The basic concept of “Over Her Dead Body” is not inherently terrible–after all, it is essentially just a riff on Noel Coward’s beloved play “Blithe Spirit”–and in competent hands, it could have easily been spun out into a passably entertaining 90 minutes of fluff. Alas, in the hands of writer-director Jeff Lowell, the genius behind the likes of “Inside Schwartz” and “John Tucker Must Die,” this presumably promising premise has, thanks to awful writing, worse direction and limply ineffective performances from horribly miscast actors, been utterly squandered to a degree not seen in a film of this type since that “Monster-In-Law” debacle. First of all, while the idea of a romantic triangle in which one of the legs is suffering from rigor mortis isn’t necessarily a bad one, it quickly becomes evident that Lowell has no idea of what kind of film he wants to make. At various points, he approaches it as romantic farce, black comedy and gross-out slapstick (yes, there is a fart joke and yes, it does go on for so long that you might think that someone accidentally spliced in a scene from “Meet the Spartans”) and the only thing that unites them is his utter inability to score laughs with any of these takes. Of course, anyone watching the film probably won’t even notice his failure at putting forth different comedic perspectives because they will be too distracted by his utter inability to put forth a convincing display of even the basic rudiments of screen craft. Visually, the film is as ugly as any screen comedy to come along in quite a while–the entire thing has the washed-out look of an especially tired sitcom, there is no sense of proper comedic timing or pacing and even the littlest details feel so fake that their sheer amateurishness takes you out of the story. Take the scene in which Ashley is showering at a health club and blindly runs naked out into the gym to be humiliated after Kate freaks her out with a faux fire alarm–from the cruddy way that it has been put together to the lack of genuine wit to the grotesquely fake bubbles that she is wearing in order to preserve her modesty and the PG-13 rating, this entire sequence should be shown in film schools as a way of demonstrating how one should never, ever attempt to put together a comedy scene.

“Over Her Dead Body” still might have managed to serve as an amiable time-waster if it had been cast with actors who were funny and likable enough to rise above the weak material but, needless to say, that doesn’t happen here. Whatever charm and star power Eva Longoria Parker may possess clearly has not made the transition from television to the big screen based on the evidence seen here–her performance is resoundingly one-note and she is so lacking in on-screen charisma and sex appeal (which is presumably why she was cast in the first place) that in many scenes, she feels less like Eva Longoria Parker and more like a second-rate Eva Longoria Parker impersonator who was hired and dismissed from “Meet the Spartans.” As the goofy psychic, Lake Bell is clearly playing what was probably described in the screenplay as “the Julia Roberts part” but she also displays no discernible sense of comic timing either–her sense of Robertsian whimsy finds her leaning closer to Eric than Julia–and in her on-screen duels with Longoria, she actually comes off as the wispier and less substantial of the two and she is the one who is supposed to be a flesh-and-blood being. That said, the worst performance in the film by far is the one turned in by Jason Biggs as one of the most excruciatingly boring cliches of contemporary romantic comedies–the extra-wacky gay best pal of the heroine. Biggs has been funny in the past but he is so utterly unconvincing in the gay best pal role that when we get a shocking last-minute revelation regarding his character, it almost feels as if it was included at the last second as a way of explaining the rest of his performance.

The only thing saving “Over Her Dead Body” from complete uselessness is Paul Rudd, whose straight-faced nuttiness and dry wit in films such as “Anchorman,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “The Ten” have made him one of the more reliable comedic performers at work in Hollywood today. Unlike the rest of his castmates, he has the kind of comedic chops that allow him to take a dud line, of which there are many on display here, and transform it into something that inspires a mild laugh, of which there are few on display here and the film actually shows faint signs of life whenever he is on the screen. Wanting to cast him in a film like this, which needs laughs anywhere it can get them, makes sense but what I don’t understand is why he would choose to do something this lame at a career point where he is presumably getting bigger and better roles than before. A few years ago, I interviewed him when he made Neil LaBute’s brilliant “The Shape of Things” and when I asked the standard boilerplate question about what attracted him to the role, he jokingly responded that he liked it because it was the one with the most lines–my immediate rejoinder, of course, was to say how that explained his presence in “Halloween 6." Based on the evidence supplied by “Over Her Dead Body,” he is still selecting roles with the same criteria as before but the main difference here is that “Halloween 6" was a lot funnier than this.

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originally posted: 02/01/08 16:00:00
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User Comments

5/07/09 mr.mike Painfully unfunny. Rudd is the most bland actor in ages. 2 stars
6/12/08 DK Eva Longorias T and A can't carry a movie. That seems sadly to be the idea here 1 stars
3/06/08 diana i love it. it is really funny 5 stars
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  DVD: 06-May-2008



Directed by
  Jeff Lowell

Written by
  Jeff Lowell

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

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