January 31, 2008

Over Her Dead Body

The Church of Wisteria

Grade: D
Directed by: Jeff Lowell
Starring: Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd, Lake Bell, Jason Biggs, and Lindsay Sloane
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

In Over Her Dead Body, Eva Longoria Parker plays a preening, self-absorbed shrew scheming mightily to prevent her ex-fiancé from dating someone else. In other words, she is playing Gabrielle Solis, and judging by this finished product, she would be best advised to avoid wandering away from the cozy confines of Wisteria Lane.

Longoria Parker operates here under the forename Kate and with the catch that five minutes into the film, her character is squished by an ice sculpture on the eve of her wedding. Unfortunately, the momentary hope that this muddle might end before it gets going dissipates when the now wraithlike Kate watches her former beau, Henry (Paul Rudd), visit Ashley (Lake Bell), a psychic/caterer who uses Kate’s old diary to feign contact with the great beyond. Henry and Ashley eventually take a shine to each other, prompting Kate to materialize and aggravate Ashley into dumping Henry.

So, we are left with the following: Ashley fakes channeling Kate in order to get close to Henry, but Ashley is somewhat exonerated when Kate actually appears to keep Ashley away from Henry because…Ashley originally faked her ability to channel Kate. Got it? Besides Rudd and Bell’s lack of chemistry, it is even more difficult to buy Ashley and Henry’s burgeoning romance when writer-director Jeff Lowell’s internally flawed script shows Ashley continuing to pursue Henry solely to spite Kate. Oh, did I mention the scene in which Ashley solicits a priest to perform an exorcist on Kate? Ah, amour...

The uniformly unlikable characters are trumped only by the idiotic dialogue, boulder-sized plot holes, and rank miscasting. Bell’s television background contributes to her annoyingly sitcomy manner – her performance is all facial and vocal tics punctuated by the unfunny recurring gag of Ashley getting fooled by Kate’s imitation of some random sound effect, such as a knocking door or Henry’s flatulence. Rudd’s trademark drollness belies a grieving would-be widower, and I am still trying to decipher the purpose of Jason Biggs’ Dan, a hyperbolic goof whose five-year gay (or not) friendship with Ashley turns out to be even more perplexing than everything else in this clunker.

Lowell borrows liberally (and without credit) from Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, adding such banal ditties as a talking parrot who miraculously starts speaking in complete sentences when acting as Kate’s ad hoc medium. Lowell actually has the chutzpa to offer as his joint denouements (1) a guy chasing a girl through an airport before she catches a plane, followed by (2) the obligatory wedding finale. The most prescient aspect of the film turns out to be its title, because this stinker is definitely DOA.

Neil Morris

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