Over Her Dead Body Jeff Lowell

Over Her Dead Body Jeff Lowell
I don’t know if it’s some kind of Christian millennial angst or just simple intellectual bankruptcy but the "dead paramour returns” motif never goes out of Hollywood fashion. Like Ghost without the murder, Truly Madly Deeply without the Brits or Coward’s Blithe Spirit without the aspirations to class, newest exhibit Over Her Dead Body unfortunately offers only subtle variations on the well-worn theme.

Our celestial envoy here is Kate (Eva Longoria), who cashes out on her wedding day mythopoetically crushed by an enormous ice angel that the bitchy bridezilla is in process of rejecting by reason of winglessness.

Flash-forward a year to Kate’s intended, Henry (Paul Rudd), still pointlessly carrying a torch. His sister, fed up with his inertia, dispatches him to kindly psychic Ashley (Lake Bell), who she’s instructed to ply Henry with some squishy advice about moving on. Of course, the real paranormal deal shows up — to Ashley alone — in the form of Kate, who, bitchiness undiluted and lacking anything better to do, makes it her (after)life’s work to squelch the obvious attraction between Henry and Ashley. Cue obvious plot points, third act crisis, resolution. The end.

Sure, complaining about predictability in this kind of romantic froth is a little like faulting the sky for being blue. But boy, the sky here is really, really blue. With little else to recommend it, Over Her Dead Body has to stand or fall on the likeability of the leads. And here, happily, it stands pretty tall.

Since surrendering to the gravitational pull of Planet Apatow, Rudd has been alchemised into comedy gold. The line has yet to be written from which he can’t yank a chuckle. Bell, still a relative unknown despite having been engaged to Colin Farrell for five minutes, is a fizzy concoction of lanky, goofy and sexy, and it’s impossible not to root for her. Although no one told the writers: they hedge their bets by making her just a part-timer — she also caters — and not a full-on Shirley MacLaine loon. The only false notes come from Longoria, who seems busy and desperate, like the TV actress I suspect she will remain.

To distract us from the artlessness of the through line, we’re treated to a nice selection of freelance yocks, notably a running, audience-flattering bit about David Foster Wallace, and a priceless sight gag with a fat dog and an examining table. Not everything works — there’s a painful over-reliance on Ashley looking crazy and talking to an unseen Kate — but the percentage is healthy.

Grading on the curve, this gets a gentleman’s C, but a gentlewoman’s B-plus. Plan your dating accordingly. (TVA)