'Body' is a lifeless rehash of the oft-told ghost story

Times Staff Writer

The pre-Valentine's Day glut of romantic comedies kicks in with the afterlife fantasy "Over Her Dead Body." Suggestive of a slew of prior movies involving the recently dead unable to properly pass on to the next realm, screenwriter Jeff Lowell's directing debut never evolves beyond its warmed-over premise.

Top-billed Eva Longoria Parker plays Kate, a rampaging Bridezilla killed on her wedding day during an unfortunate run-in with an ice sculpture -- a portentously wingless angel. She insults her guide at the heavenly way station and is summarily left to fend for herself in limbo.

On Earth, her veterinarian fiance, Henry (Paul Rudd, on loan from the Judd Apatow Repertory Company), is understandably depressed and having difficulty moving on with his life. (Though the more we see of Kate, the less comprehensible this is. He should be relieved!)

Henry's spunky sister, Chloe (Lindsay Sloane), takes him to see a psychic-slash-caterer, Ashley (Lake Bell), in hopes that he can get closure with Kate.

After a false start, Chloe convinces an initially wary Ashley to "fake it" and, through the use of Kate's diary, she convinces the skeptical Henry that she's getting a transmission from his dearly departed loud and clear. Ashley's ethical concerns are offset by a growing attraction between her and a suddenly revitalized Henry.

Unwilling to share her man, even from beyond the grave, Kate then actually does appear to Ashley and threatens her with bodily harm and humiliation if she doesn't back off. An ectoplasmic love triangle is born.

While Bell and Rudd generate some sparks as Ashley and Henry get to know one another, Longoria Parker's role is another matter. Kate is an irredeemably one-note shrew who fails to generate a shred of empathy, while producing critically few laughs -- what should be the film's juiciest character ends up a black hole.

For what is essentially a screwball comedy, "Over Her Dead Body" is surprisingly uninspired, a frothy concept that offers little satisfaction in the way of execution. There is marginally amusing patter among Bell, Rudd, Sloane and Jason Biggs as Ashley's gay catering partner, but what little life they generate almost immediately vanishes any time Kate enters.



"Over Her Dead Body." MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. In general release.

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