When you encounter hideous misogyny in a movie pitched aggressively at male audiences (like last fall’s Good Luck Chuck), it’s shocking but not necessarily surprising.
When you encounter the same thing in a movie pitched at female audiences, however, it can still catch a hardened moviegoer off-guard. That will likely be the fate awaiting unsuspecting ticket-buyers who find their way into Over Her Dead Body, which is being sold as a light comedy but winds up giving you indigestion. The movie begins with bridezilla Kate (Eva Longoria Parker) being crushed to death on her wedding day by a falling ice sculpture, which she has ordered sent back because it depicts an angel without wings. One year later, her still-grieving fiancé, Henry (Paul Rudd), finds a way to move on after he meets and falls in love with Ashley (the unusually named and unusual-looking Lake Bell), a caterer with a sideline as a psychic. That’s when Kate’s ghost appears to Ashley – and only Ashley. At first the psychic thinks it’s cool that she’s actually talking to the dead, but that’s before Kate decides to drive Ashley away so that Henry will remain hers.
Apparently, it takes more than getting killed to stop a chick this psychotic – indeed, the main reason Kate’s still wandering around on Earth is because she pitches a diva fit in the afterlife and pisses off the angel of death. Why would a woman so monstrously self-absorbed attract someone like Henry? More to the point, why do we want to follow her around? The movie marks the directing debut of Jeff Lowell, who served as screenwriter on the 2006 teen comedy John Tucker Must Die. That film was even more odious than this one, but they follow the same pattern: Lowell can’t seem to convincingly depict women as anything other than shrill, vengeful harpies with a tenuous grip on reality. Oh, he tries to write sane and decent female characters, too, but they always get sucked into telling lies and descending to the level of their competition, as Ashley winds up doing.
Arguably nothing Kate does is as heinous as the deception that Ashley’s gay best friend Dan (Jason Biggs) turns out to have practiced on her, but this character and the subplot that features him are mind-blowingly unconvincing. The pity of it is, this movie strands a pretty solid cast, especially Rudd (much better in raucous comedies like Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Anchorman than in conventional romantic stuff like this) and Longoria Parker (a limited but genuinely funny performer who’s at her best doing comedy). Their combined talent and charm can’t begin to counteract the spite at the core of this thing. Lowell can’t even get any slapstick mileage out of Kate being a ghost. When Noël Coward tackled this same story back in 1941 with his play Blithe Spirit, at least he managed to squeeze a number of funny gags out of the setup. With Over Her Dead Body, we are a long way away from Coward.
Over Her Dead Body
Starring Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd, and Lake Bell. Written and directed by Jeff Lowell. Rated PG-13.