Small screen starlet, Eva Longoria Parker has found herself in a starring role in Over Her Dead Body, the second major romantic-comedy release of the year (27 Dresses being the first). I can count two possible reasons why she’s in that position: 1.) The more accomplished romance leads were already tied up in other projects or just not interested or 2.) New Line Cinema wanted to strike the Desperate Housewives fire one last time before it flickered out. I’m willing to bet it’s actually a combination of both realities.
I make these claims not because I have insider information but because after watching the movie it was fairly obvious. From the standpoint of lead actresses skipping the part, I can’t say I blame them. The story is a bit bland and the main role of Kate is a thoroughly unlikable character. She’s an uptight, anal, control-freak bitch with absolutely no worthwhile qualities. The fact that she gets killed within the first ten minutes of the movie is literally one of the flick’s highlights. Need another reason A-list actresses decided to not sign on? The supporting cast could be another culprit. Paul Rudd as Henry, the heartbroken ex looking to carry on his life doesn’t exactly scream leading man. Rounding out the cast is Lindsay Sloane as Henry’s overly involved sister, Chloe, Lake Bell as Ashley, Henry’s psychic love interest, and Jason Biggs as Dan, Ashley’s gay friend.
But, surprisingly enough, it is this relative unknown group of actors that make Over Her Dead Body nearly watchable (stress nearly). Lindsay Sloane and Lake Bell, whom I had never heard of prior to this film, have apparently been steadily building their portfolios with bit parts on television (Lake most notably on Boston Legal) for the past few years. While I think it is safe to say neither of them will transcend to dizzying heights, they’re both quite refreshing to watch on the screen. Sloane is especially good as the quirky, rambunctious sister hell-bent on seeing her brother break out of his year-long depression. Bell doesn’t exactly look the part of a person who speaks to the dead but she looks good and carries the airhead aspect of her character well. Paul Rudd is well, Paul Rudd. If you write him funny lines or ask him to do stupid pet tricks, he can shine. Writer director Jeff Lowell doesn’t do much of either, but does manage to use Rudd’s plodding, meandering ways to the best of his ability. As for Biggs, I still can’t quite figure out what he was doing in the movie. He does what he does best – acting like an idiot – but it just seemed totally out of place.
As I previously said though, the movie itself is a bit on the dumb side. The idea of a dead woman coming back to haunt her fiancee’s new lover (who happens to be a medium) doesn’t scream “Must See” to me. And in a bizarre bait-and-switch move, the lead marketed role (Longoria Parker) has less screen time than any of the other actors or actresses. Every advertisement has her prominently portrayed to draw in the housewife yentas who still watch her show (point two in the opening paragraph). How dismayed they’ll be when they see so little of her – even I was disappointed and I’m not a fan (I was simply hoping for a glimpse of skin).
By in large, Over Her Dead Body is lacking that cutesy connection that makes a romantic comedy a success. It may be that Bell and Rudd don’t have quite enough charisma together (or on their own) to pull it off. It may be that the writing isn’t as sharp or witty as it needs to be. Or perhaps, God forbid, it is the lack of Longoria Parker that drags the movie down. Whatever it is, you won’t lose any sleep if you skip this and rent the vastly superior Blithe Spirit, the movie that Over Her Dead Body so unceremoniously copies.