First there was the ultra mushy "Ghost." Then came the heartbreaking yet uplifting, "Truly, Madly, Deeply." And just last month, we watched Hilary Swank keep in touch with her late husband in "P.S., I Love You." What's the deal with movie romances reviving dead spouses/lovers?
Jumping on this otherworldly bandwagon, writer Jeff Lowell seems intent on showing everyone the powers of the nearly departed in "Over Her Dead Body" Here, the recently deceased is one grouchy and demanding interloper Kate, played with wily, catty evil by diamond-dripping "Desperate Housewives" star, Eva Longoria Parker. It's not a real stretch from Gabrielle Solis.
Within the first two minutes, Kate is accidentally killed on her wedding day. Painfully earnest and perfectly suited to the role of newly "widowed" easygoing bachelor, Henry, played by Paul Rudd, seems genuine and refreshingly sensible. He looks everyone in the eye: his patients (he's a vet!), their owners and his dates. Rudd's portrayal is so understated, one wonders whether Henry is merely making an effort to keep himself from feeling grief or from feeling anything at all. His calm is at once reassuring and unnerving.
Convinced that Henry is "not moving on -- not letting go," his sister Chloe -- played by Lindsay Sloane as a sweet and very believably concerned sibling -- urges him to consult a psychic. He succumbs to her nagging and reluctantly visits Ashley: part caterer, part psychic, played by Lake Bell, embodying just the right mix of loopy eccentricity and sublime optimism.
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It is precisely when Henry does try to move on that things get interesting. Kate, in all her bejeweled, tanned, salon-perfect splendor returns with a vengeance, to make sure that if she can't have him, no one will. Meanwhile, although Henry views the psychic endeavor as nothing more than "a joke," he is also slowly falling for Ashley. And after Ashley assures him "Kate wants you to be happy," he loosens up a tad.
When Kate appears at the most embarrassing possible moments, she -- rather, her ghost -- threatens Ashley to keep away from her fiance, and in keeping with the less-than-captivating dialogue, insists "he's not right for you." Bleccch.
On a more original note, Ashley goes so far as to consult a priest to have Kate's ghost exorcised. The entire sequence -- part William Friedkin and part "Six Feet Under" -- actually proves to be one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
Predictable and far-fetched, the story includes some rather tasteless juvenile humor. There are a few clever moments, particularly involving Stephen Root, as a harried ice sculptor who bonds with Kate. His jovial and better-"late"-than-never sensibilities perfectly suit his somewhat rumpled and relaxed afterlife.
Still, the silly and erratic plot bounces back and forth between screechy and treacly. You know your script is in trouble when the funniest lines are uttered by a pet parrot. At least here, in his directorial debut Lowell is smart enough to deliver the winning lines himself, and off camera.