Over Her Dead Body

Over Her Dead Body is the kind of movie that gets a lot better than it deserves. The story is a dog, right from the start. It’s a viciously boring retread of every movie you’ve ever seen in which dead people come back to watch over their loved ones. Its budget, is not nearly enough to make this sort of story happen. Special effects are almost non-existent, and so the film is filled with strange, use your own imagination moments where the ghosts involved are pretty much the same as corporeal creatures, except everyone pretends not to see them. When Eva Longoria Parker sits on a couch for instance, even though she’s supposed to be substanceless, the couch cushions sink, cradling her obviously corporeal body. Over Her Dead Body deserves to be a disaster but it isn’t, because even though the story is garbage, the dialogue is quick and witty; and even though the ghosts are pretty stupid, someone convinced Paul Rudd and Lake Bell to be in it, both of whom are brilliant.

I guess I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Eva Longoria plays Kate, a woman killed on her wedding day by a falling ice sculpture. She’s sent back to Earth to deal with unfinished business, but doesn’t get any instructions so she has no idea what that business is. She decides, for no particular reason, that it must be her job to make sure he never sleeps with another woman. Because that of course, is what would be best for him. Nothing makes a man more content than celibacy. Paul Rudd plays Henry, her would-have-been fiancée who, seems to be having trouble moving on without her. His sister drags him to a psychic named Ashley (Lake Bell), whom she has convinced to fib in order to tell him that Kate wants him to move on. Ashley does, and then finds herself falling in love with Henry, which pisses Kate’s ghost off. It’s then that Kate starts appearing to Ashley, deciding to make the fake psychic’s life a living hell until she quits trying to cheer up her obviously miserable, lonely, almost-was husband. Even as a ghost, Eva Longoria always ends up playing kind of a bitch.

Unfortunately, she’s not very good at it. Actually judging from this movie she’s not very good at anything, except hanging out at Spurs games and cheering. Longoria is nothing more than a pretty face, one whose hotness is already fading and with it the sadly incorrect notion that she has any acting talent to speak of. She’s utterly miscast as Kate, though I have a hard time imagining a situation in which she’d be right to play anyone. I think the character was supposed to be mildly sympathetic, but even when Kate ends up doing the right thing looking for redemption, it’s hard to buy any of it. You’ll end up hoping she burns in hell, if not because she’s a horrible person, then because she seems like the humorless, soulless, cardboard cutout of a horrible person.

Not horrible is Paul Rudd, who deserves to be in a better movie than this one, but has a knack for making the best of any situation. It helps that he’s given some pretty snappy dialogue to work with here, some of it even sounds like the sort of stuff you’d find in an Apatow project, which is weird when you consider that aside from the stuff coming out of Rudd and costar Lake Bell’s mouths, the rest of the script is terrible. It makes me wonder if Rudd and Bell somehow talked the film’s writer/director Jeff Lowell into letting them improvise some of it. Their interaction together is so obviously better than anything else in the film that it’s almost like it had two entirely different writers. New Line Cinema however, insists that Lowell wrote all of it. Who am I to argue with the studio that made those wonderful movies about hobbits.

Really, there are three entirely separate stories going on here. Over Her Dead Body never quite manages to figure out which character is the lead, and isn’t nearly smart enough to mesh them all together into some sort of ensemble. So you have Eva Longoria Parker’s story, which is an utter dead end offset by the separate stories of Rudd and Bell, which prove surprisingly entertaining, especially when they’re together bouncing lines off one another. Oh and Jason Biggs is in the movie too, in a badly miscalculated subplot which seems to be attempting to say something about the bizarre need for women to have gay best friends. It’s a dead end.

Over Her Dead Body tries it’s level best to be terrible, but made the mistake of casting people who actually know what they’re doing, even if everyone else doesn’t. Rudd and Bell’s work is good enough for me to recommend the movie for a lazy, Saturday afternoon when there’s absolutely nothing else on basic cable and you’re just looking for something to drone on the TV in front of you while you stuff your face with Ding Dongs and Little Debbies. Now that’s a weekend.