Move over, One Missed Call. You now face stiff competition for worst movie of the year from Over Her Dead Body, a dreadful romantic comedy starring Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd and Lake Bell. Borrowing heavily from Noel Coward’s wonderful Blithe Spirit of 1945, this misguided fantasy bites the dust quicker than you can say “ghostbusters.”
However, don’t blame my favorite Desperate Housewives star. Longoria Parker puts considerable energy into her portrayal of a feisty ghost trying to ruin the budding romantic relationship between her live almost-husband (Rudd) and the so-called psychic (Bell) he’s falling for. On the other hand, Rudd’s (Knocked Up ) acting comes across as bland as spaghetti without sauce, and Bell (TV’s The Practice) struggles to make us laugh by performing some of the most unfunny physical comedy I’ve ever seen on screen. To be fair, she nails a couple of dramatic scenes. Still, I think this lovely actress should avoid comedy like the plague.
Directing from his own screenplay, Jeff Lowell (John Tucker Must Die) should have recognized things were not working out during the filmmaking process. Why couldn’t he see the lack of chemistry between Rudd and Bell? Why didn’t he, as the writer, punch up the dull dialogue? Why did he waste the comedic talents of Jason Biggs in a thankless supporting role? And, finally, why didn’t Lowell simply do a remake of Blithe Spirit? I would love to see an updated version of that terrific film. And casting it could be so much fun! My suggestion for the eccentric medium, played so brilliantly by Margaret Rutherford in 1945? Kathy Bates or Shirley MacLaine. For the role of the ghost who makes her husband’s new wife miserable? Reese Witherspoon -- or even Longoria Parker again.
Over Her Dead Body, as bad as it is, includes a few amusing moments. Rudd plays a veterinarian, and one scene featuring an overweight dog brought to his office for examination made me laugh heartedly. Stephen Root (The Office) also evokes smiles as a tipsy ice sculptor responsible for the bride’s death, and Kali Rocha (White Oleander) endows her “angel” character, who appears too briefly, with a whimsical passive-aggressiveness that’s very funny indeed.
Creating romantic comedies featuring a ghost as one of the main characters may not be an easy task for filmmakers, but it’s been done successfully in other movies besides Blithe Spirit. Those classic and sophisticated Topper films come to mind. And the more recent Just Like Heaven, though not technically a ghost story, deals beautifully -- and often humorously -- with a spirit seeking help from a fully functioning human being. I believe there’s a large group of viewers looking for movies like this. Unfortunately, Over Her Dead Body will probably not satisfy most of them.
(Released by New Line Cinema and rated “PG-13” for sexual content and language.)