Over Her Dead Body (review)

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Bury It

The only explanation is this: They — the big Hollywood They who dominate our mass entertainment — are now actively making movies for the Stupid demographic.

There’s a place for simple, uncomplicated movies that don’t ask a lot of an audience, that are intended merely as easy, undemanding entertainment. That is not what Over Her Dead Body is. This is a stilted, contrived, slapdash collection of lazily acted, badly written scenes thrown together into something that writer-director Jeff Lowell hopes you won’t notice don’t quite connect to one another. If clumsy, careless Lowell doesn’t actually hope his audience is borderline retarded, then surely he must be hoping that that audience has set the bar on its entertainment needs so low that one must be hovering close to unconsciousness to get the full intended affect.
The other explanation is that Lowell — a TV writer and producer making his feature directorial debut here — holds women in contempt. Because this flat, utterly charmless tale becomes, in its sorry aggregate, a horrible vision of contemporary womanhood. Through three excruciatingly false characters, he gives us female people who are, at best, dumb, dishonest, thoughtless, and selfish, and at worst, pointlessly vindictive bitches.

These two theories of the deep awfulness of Over Her Dead Body are not, of course, mutually exclusive.

Is Eva Longoria Parker (The Heartbreak Kid, The Sentinel) this unbearable on Desperate Housewives? I’ve never seen the show, because just the ads for it alone make me want to gouge my eyes out, and now I’m glad to have missed it. Here she is Kate, who dies on her wedding day — killed in a way that is meant to be ironic, and perhaps even funny. It sets up a bizarre kind of unresolvable dichotomy: It’s impossible to tell whether Lowell means her to be sympathetic, which appears to be necessary for his story to hang together at all, or whether he means her to be the villain, which also appears to be necessary for his story to hang together at all.

For, you see, Kate goes from bridezilla to ghostzilla, when she returns — after an unexplained year in the afterlife — to haunt the new girlfriend of her former fiancé. The girlfriend is Ashley (Lake Bell), a real psychic who is faking being able to talk to Henry’s (Paul Rudd: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Knocked Up) dead ex because Henry’s sister, Chloe (Lindsay Sloane), thinks he needs to move on. Ashley is able to do that because Chloe stole Kate’s diary from Henry’s apartment — Kate’s diary that Henry didn’t even know existed, but Chloe was able to find and sneak out of his place — and it contains all sorts of secrets that Ashley can use to pretend to be speaking to dead Kate. And Ashley agrees to this charade, even though, she insists, “it goes against everything I believe,” because, well, this would be a far more sharply written movie if she needed an actual motivation, and as I’ve noted, Lowell clearly intends this not to be sharply written. Or else he intends for women to look like vacillating dimbulbs. Or both.

More evidence: Kate has no reason for not wanting Henry to move on with his life. She’s merely so insanely jealous from beyond the grave that she wants him to be lonely. Kate doesn’t need a motivation, it appears, because, well, that’s just how women are, right? If they’re not natural liars and cheats (like Chloe and Ashley), they’re natural bitches. Obviously.

I’m not suggesting the men — Henry and Ashley’s “gay friend” Dan (Jason Biggs: Eight Below, Jersey Girl) — come off well. They don’t. They’re not quite as dumb and malicious as the women… they’re a more ordinary brand of idiot-movie annoying and impossible to accept as genuine. Which almost looks good next to these horrors of twisted femininity.

It’s all so horrific that I wish Lowell had succeeded in distracting me with his strange injections of forced slapstick that bear no connection whatsoever to the supposedly “romantic” story he clearly doesn’t even believe in himself. This is a vicious, catty movie, and it’s hard to see how that’s an accident of incompetent filmmaking, and not Lowell’s every intention from the get-go.

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Fri, Feb 01, 2008 5:52pm

Somehow I knew this movie would be that awful.

Tue, Feb 05, 2008 2:54pm

Really? The long-awaited follow up to Lowell’s “John Tucker Must Die” falls flat on its face? Eva Longoria is just another bitchy pretty face that can’t seem to act her way into a story with substance? The sky is what? Blue you say? Get out!

I’d like to hazard a guess that Mr. Lowell was probably born and raised out here in good old Los Angeles. While I certainly abhor his depiction of women in this film (based on your description), I have to admit that I’ve met a fair few that fit that profile having lived in Hollywood for four years. Hate to sound like a complete douche, but that’s the truth (so much so that I actually met my girlfriend while on vacation in Chicago).

And just in case you LOVED his first two, keep an eye up for what is bound to be his magnum opus (based on the title alone), HOTEL FOR DOGS.