Were My Super Ex-Girlfriend released in 1986, it would probably be the summer’s biggest buzz. But it’s not 1986 and Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman has released another ho-hum comedy that seems just a little behind the times. Hello Ivan, 2006 is calling. When are you going to pick up?
The movie stars Luke Wilson as a guy named Matt. He’s a lovable, laid back, slightly pudgy shlub who happens to be down on his luck with women. Luke’s perfect for this type of character, and audiences should look forward to him doing more of the same in Mike Judge’s upcoming movie Idiocracy. But this isn’t a Mike Judge movie, so it takes a few minutes for My Super Ex-Girlfriend to get to a laugh after introducing our leading man. When the laughs arrive, it’s courtesy of “Office” star Rain Wilson, as Matt’s obligatory babe-hound best friend Vaughn. If John Candy were alive and Tom Hanks were a bit younger, they’d be playing these roles. The two Wilsons (no relation) are I suppose, an acceptable substitute.
Lonely Matt eventually meets a girl, after being prompted to introduce himself on a subway by his buddy. Her name is Jenny (Uma Thurman), and she’s dressed like a frumpy librarian. Vaughn thinks this is a good thing, since as everyone knows conservative on the outside means hellcat hidden within. Vaughn may not be right very often, but he is right about this. Matt’s new girl is actually the city’s most celebrated superhero, the fashionable yet fierce G-Girl. Jenny Johnson is only her alter-ego.
When Matt finds out the truth, at first he thinks it’s pretty cool. There’s a catch though: G-Girl is a complete psycho. She’s controlling, manipulative, and Matt finds it emasculating to be flown through the air in her arms like a helpless baby. It’s a lot less romantic when the genders are reversed. Matt wants out, but G-Girl doesn’t take kindly to being dumped. She’s the stuff of crazy-ex nightmares, and she’s ready to use her powers to make his life a living hell.
A movie about a superheroine using her powers to make unfaithful boyfriends pay seems like a good idea. One problem though: My Super Ex-Girlfriend takes a long time to get there. Most of the movie is spent setting up Matt and Jenny’s relationship, or on pit stops to build up a secondary relationship with one of Matt’s hot coworkers, played by Anna Faris. By the time Reitman gets around to torturing poor Luke Wilson, the audience has kind of lost interest. Uma’s good as a crazy girlfriend, but there’s not enough of her being nuts. The movie should have taken it’s premise further, been meaner. It needs an edge to be more than a cinematic cream puff.
A cream puff is all Super Ex-Girlfriend is. This sort of movie worked for Reitman back in the 80s, when audiences had lower expectations and were fairly happy watching empty movies with a few empty effects, and a few empty laughs in them. Those movies were even kind of endearing. But they belong in a different time, the face of cinema has changed, while Reitman hasn’t changed with it. Popcorn is one thing, but this is more like cotton candy. It melts in your mouth as soon as it hits your tongue. You might enjoy it for a second, but whatever enjoyment there is in eating it is gone before you can really taste it. Reitman’s time has come and gone. He’s still on his game, the game has simply changed.