A film review by Craig J. Koban





2008, PG-13, 97 mins.


Kate: Eva Longoria Parker / Henry: Paul Rudd / Ashley: Lake Bell / Chloe: Lindsay Sloane / Dan: Jason Biggs / Sculptor: Stephen Root 

Written and directed by Jeff Lowell

There are films that struggle to generate laughs and then there are ones that are utterly bereft of them. 

OVER HER DEAD BODY is one of those films, which emerges as being almost incomprehensibly unfunny.  The desperation for chuckles in this romantic comedy is persistent and unsettling, kind of akin to a panhandler on a street corner begging for spare change for their nest drug fix.  Sounds of silence permeated the theatre as I sat through this movie; that type of auditory environment was not the intended effect. 

This witless, monotonously dull and woefully contrived film fails to muster enough genuine guffaws to fill the laugh track of a wretched 20-minute TV sitcom.  Romantic comedies have fairly modest aspirations: They want to introduce two likeable leads that we will grow to appreciate and yearn for their eventual get-together in the end.  The downright failure of OVER HER DEAD BODY is that it provides us with with a male and female character that we never really grow to like in any way and, to add insult to injury, it provides a third female figure – in ghostly apparition form – to spoil even more of the fun.  If our unwillingness to respond favorably to the characters is not enough, OVER HER DEAD BODY also tries to be a supernatural comedy that is dogged by a complete lack of interest in the actual afterlife. 

Consider this:  You die, albeit accidentally.  You are then whisked away to heaven and meet an angel.  What would be your initial response?  Would your death and subsequent rebirth in the hereafter not make you astounded by the metaphysical implications of your situation?  Would it not make you instantly thirsting for answers to life’s biggest questions?  Moreover, would you not want to meet God?  OVER HER DEAD BODY ever so modestly deals with that moment in heaven for one woman after she dies, but the screenplay is so dead on arrival that it has no interest in probing – or finding some decent comic possibilities – into of this woman’s new, angelic surroundings.  Instead, the script compels her to go back to earth to ensure that her hubby does not hook up with another woman because, dog-gonnit, that makes her jealous.

The woman in question is Kate and is played in a performance as annoying as finger nails on the proverbial chalkboard by Eva Longoria-Parker, who is so inhumanly tanned that she deserves some sort of George Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award for being so scandalously bronzed.  Okay, she’s not that bad looking, but her attempts at comic timing, embodying a sly acerbic wit, and delivering would-be uproarious dialogue falls flat every single moment.  She plays a mortal woman that dies within the first five minutes of the film and then is a ghost that haunts a woman that wants to forge a relationship with her widowed husband.  I grew tired of her irritating presence before the five-minute mark. 

Kate was to wed the love of her life, Henry (played by the usual comic heavyweight Paul Rudd, but here he seems so lifeless and inert, kind of like an actor that knows he is pigeonholed with such a lackluster comic creation that is not given free reign to shine).  The screenplay does not spend too much time with establishing this couple, nor does it try at all to make Kate a figure of our affection.  Kate is such an imperious, pompous, and elitist woman that you kind of pray that she dies right before she exchanges nuptials with her hubby, maybe by an out of control ice statue.  As luck would have it, that is precisely how she bites the bullet.   

Predictably, Kate gets sped off to heaven, which is essentially presented as an infinite white void (could the script not find some fresh angle to presenting the afterlife?).  She meets an angel (Kali Rocha) who keeps her up to speed as to her current situation.  Instead of being legitimately astonished and in a state of awe, Kate decides that she will use her time in heaven not to be at peace with God, but to re-visits earth to make sure Henry does not hook up with another woman. 

Meanwhile, Henry on earth is a puddle of remorse and sadness.  It has been a year since his wife's tragic death via flying ice sculpture, but he just can’t seem to move on.  His baby sister Chloe (Lindsay Sloane) desperately tries to make Henry rediscover his lost social life.  She manages to persuade him to visit a local psychic named Ashley (Lake Bell, who looks a lot like a red-headed Natasha Henstridge).  Of course, Ashley is a real fake at her job (she works as a caterer on the side to make real money) and her attempts at allowing Henry to reconnect with his dead wife go nowhere. 

Henry and Ashley do have a decent meet cute and there is some unspoken attraction between the two of them.  Ashley's gay catering partner, Dan (Jason Biggs, never once garnering a snicker) pleads with her not to date her clients.  Nevertheless, she is smitten and is convinced more by Chloe to peruse Henry further.  Chloe also ups the ante by providing Kate’s diary, which gives her tons of personal tidbits about her that only Henry and Kate would know, which makes it easier for her to pass herself off as a physic of real power.  Well, her next meeting with Henry impresses him to no end; especially with the way she is able to provide intimate details of Kate’s life. 

Slowly, the two fall for one another, but Kate manages to make herself visible and audible to Ashley, much to her shock and dismay, and she threatens to do everything and anything possible to sabotage their growing relationship.  This, of course, establishes the film’s long running series of dumb sight gags, silly and moronic misunderstandings, and so forth.  The film never once has a moment of valid comic inspiration.  One moment where Kate hovers over Henry and Ashley making love is asinine and juvenile, as is one moment where she makes Ashley think that Henry has a gas problem (fart jokes are never as funny as they appear to be, but this one drags it out to unbearably long levels).  Another scene where Kate makes a half naked Ashley run out of the gym shower and into the men’s weight room barely registers a smile. 

One thing that really, really bothered me about OVER HER DEAD BODY –aside from its staunch willingness to not be amusing – is its handling of the ghostly Kate herself.  She appears normal, can walk around like a normal woman, and converse like a normal woman with Ashley, but she is a ghost that can’t be seen by everyone else.  Why, then, does she cast shadows on the wall?  Also, why does the movie ever comment on why ghosts can walk around on floors, but manage to pass through everything else so easily?  Moreover, the film never really explains how Kate manages to learn all of her newfound specter-powers.   At least in GHOST Patrick Swayze had a Yoda-like spirit guide; in this film Kate seems to become a supernaturally gifted poltergeist with little instruction.   

None of the characters generate any real interest.  Kate, as described, is presented as cold hearted and vindictive, which makes it hard to care about her plight.  Ashley herself is so dimwitted and lacking in palpable charm that we have to remind ourselves that she is worthy of Henry’s love.  Henry is also kind of a miserable persona, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that Paul Rudd plays him with the most marginal energy and spunk necessary to register as a performance (it’s utterly sad to see the comedically gifted actor so severely tainted and subverted by a film’s dreary and contrived script; he looks bored stiff).  And then there’s Jason Bigg’s Dan, who provides the story with an overbearingly ridiculous and manufactured plot twist at the end that manages to provide one last groan of disbelief and embarrassment from the audience.  To make matters worse, the manner with which he is carelessly cast aside at the film's conclusion is kind of mean-spirited.

Even at its short running time of 97 minutes, OVER HER DEAD BODY is a festering comic dead zone.  It was written and directed by Jeff Lowell (whose previous film credits include writing JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE and TV’s SPIN CITY and THE DREW CAREY SHOW) as his rookie status as a comedic director shows.  Lacking in any inspiration with the underlining material, void of likeable and whimsical leads, not mention containing comic set pieces that clumsily stumble by with an elephantine pacing, OVER HER DEAD BODY is an unimaginative, bland, and charmless mess.   Sitting through this romantic-fantasy comedy is about as enjoyable as being projectile vomited on by a possessed Linda Blair.   

In short: Not fun at all.

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