The ensemble cast of "Over Her Dead Body" is exuberant enough that one wishes the whole lot of them could have found their way to a better screenplay. As written and directed by Jeff Lowell (making his feature debut), this is an extraordinarily stupid romantic comedy that doesn't once go in a direction that isn't expected and uncomfortably adds a ghost story into the mix. Going down a familiar path already crossed by superior pictures like 1990's "Ghost" and 2005's "Just Like Heaven
" (the latter no great shakes, either, but still better than this), "Over Her Dead Body" brings nothing new to the subgenre and is riddled with sloppy plot holes and shameless cliché. More than that, it fails to be funny or bittersweet, and chooses for romantic suitors two people who, together, could put out a fire rather than set one.
When Kate (Eva Longoria Parker) is killed on her wedding day in a freak accident involving an ice sculpture, she finds herself stranded on earth with unfinished business to resolve. A year later, her would-be fiancé Henry (Paul Rudd) visits part-time medium/part-time caterer Ashley (Lake Bell) in the hopes that she will be able to make contact with Kate and, thus, allow him to move on. When Henry and Ashley end up hitting it off and start dating, however, Kate makes her spiritual presence known to Ashley in a big way, vowing to make her life a living hell until she agrees to stop seeing Henry. It turns out even the dead get jealous.
"Over Her Dead Body" goes wrong in so many ways that only the actors and a pretty good pop soundtrack keep it from becoming intolerable. The supernatural element feels cheesy and unformed, doing away with a chance to explore what Kate is going through as she lives in limbo between this world and the next. Instead, all that writer-director Jeff Lowell can come up with are gags where Kate plays with Ashley's mind, keeping her up at night as she talks about her past pets and falsely making her think that Henry has a terrible flatulence problem. Also, why is it that Kate cannot be touched and can walk through walls, but has no trouble sitting on a couch, which in turn causes the pillow next to her to move? It's a minor observation, but one that should have been dealt with. Perhaps the biggest problem of all with Kate's scheme to break up Henry and Ashley is that she isn't at all likable, either before her death or after, and isn't worth caring about. Why would Henry have been planning to marry Kate in the first place when she is portrayed as a bitch?
Viewed as a typical romantic comedy, the film is on even shakier ground. Henry and Ashley do not share a single meaningful conversation throughout and have next to no chemistry together. What do they see in each other, other than what is required by the mechanical plot? A great deal more charismatic is the relationship between Ashley and best friend Dan (Jason Biggs). When things are set up near the end to place these two together, the movie immediately brightens; they, at last, appear to be a couple meant to be with one another. Unfortunately, Dan is the second-fiddle characterthe "Duckie" of the picture, if you willand so Ashley inconsiderately drops him the second Henry comes back. This climactic scene, it should be noted, is set at the most egregious and overdone of all cinematic romance locations: the airport.
As the spurned and otherworldly Kate, Eva Longoria Parker (2006's "The Sentinel
") has a thankless role, but does what she can with the limited material. As Ashley, Lake Bell (TV's now-defunct "Surface") is an unconventional beauty who is curiously lit in an unattractive manner. Still, Bell is a capable performer with a flair for comedy. Paul Rudd (2007's "Knocked Up
"), usually a scene-stealer, appears to be slumming it as Henry, his character too thinly drawn to make the proper impression. Better is Jason Biggs (2006's "Eight Below
"), whose Dan is the most interesting character around and, of course, the one treated as expendable. Biggs and Bell work wonderfully together; the film should have been about them. Finally, Lindsay Sloan (2007's "Nancy Drew
") is a quirky, entertaining find as Henry's concerned sister, Chloe.
"Over Her Dead Body" is thoroughly unoriginal and screams of desperation. Aims at tickling the funny bone fall largely flat, while the multiple love storiesHenry and Kate, Henry and Ashleyare frivolous non-starters without the heft to hold emotional relevance. The direction, too, is scattershot at best, with the use of chintzy special effects and visually stale exteriors giving away the low budget. "Over Her Dead Body" is a fitting title; this is a DOA dud in dire need of life support.