Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 7, 2008)
Every TV star wants to turn into a movie icon. Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria Parker becomes the latest to attempt that leap with 2008’s Over Her Dead Body. Parker plays Kate, a babe who dies on her wedding day after an ice sculpture lands on her.
Understandably, this leaves Kate’s fiancé Henry (Paul Rudd) bummed, and even a year after her demise, he finds it tough to move on. His sister Chloe (Lindsay Sloane) drags him to a psychic named Ashley (Lake Bell) in the hope that they can contact Kate’s spirit. This doesn’t seem to work, so Chloe convinces Ashley to fake it in an attempt to get Henry back into the social world.
It turns out that these efforts do bring Kate back to the world, albeit in ghostly form. She thinks she needs to deal with unfinished business, and she feels she must “save” Henry. She interprets this to mean that she should keep him from dating. When Henry and Ashley become a romantic item, this sets off Kate and she works hard to prevent their love connection. Body follows Kate’s efforts, with an emphasis on the battle of wills between her and Ashley.
Why do I bother to watch chick flicks since I so rarely like them? I guess I feel some sense of duty to the site; I don’t want all our reviews to be the same old, same old, so it’s good to bring some cinematic diversity to things.
Plus, there’s always that chance I just might dig what I see. No, this doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unprecedented. For instance, I always really liked Pretty Woman, and a few other chick flicks give me decent entertainment.
I admit that I went into Body with extremely low expectations – and a generally negative attitude. As I recall, the film got weak reviews, and it certainly tanked at the box office; it took in a pathetic $7 million in the US. I saw no reason to believe Body would be any better than a sister chick flick like the atrocious PS I Love You.
To my shock, I actually enjoyed much of what I saw in Body. The movie boasts a looseness that serves it well. Much more comedic than most films in this XX-chromosome genre, it demonstrates a lively attitude that throws out plenty of good gags. Sure, it steals a lot of its concept from Ghost, but it manages to create more than a few funny moments and rarely becomes as sappy as one might expect.
The presence of a quality cast helps. I do think Body is an odd choice for Parker as an attempt to become a movie star, though. For one, Kate really exists as a supporting character. Ashley is the true lead, while Kate operates more to motivate the plot. Heck, after the flick’s opening, she goes missing for more than 20 minutes, which seems like an awfully long stretch to lose the lead. Parker is the star in name only, as Kate isn’t a lead role.
Kate is also a bad choice as a potential “breakout” role because she’s so darned unlikable through so much of the film. When we meet her on her wedding day, we immediately classify her as pushy and high maintenance. Man, as soon as I saw the napkins folded to look like swans, I knew that Kate would be a negative character; anyone who needs such an overdone wedding is bad news, and nothing we see after that changes this impression. She’s a pampered baby who cares about no one but herself.
That’s the part Parker wants to use to become a movie star? I think it’s also an enormous stretch to imagine Kate and Henry as a couple, at least as played here. She’s a Type-A bitch, basically, while he’s laid-back and sarcastic. Sorry – I just don’t accept that they’d be in love with each other.
I’m not sure why the filmmakers felt they needed to make Kate such an irritating character. The decision doesn’t help the movie, and it’s not necessary. She could be likable but misguided in her quest; she doesn’t have to be so annoying.
Despite that misstep, Parker manages to find some humor in her role. Indeed, she seems to delight in Kate’s bitchiness. Her best scenes come from those in which she torments Ashley. Parker does less well when the movie requires emotion from her toward the end, but she succeeds in the comedic parts.
Bell and Rudd account for the main reason the movie entertains, though. I used to dislike Rudd, probably because I so hated the simpy character he played during the last few seasons of Friends. (I liked the series – I just couldn’t stand his character.) Over the last few years, however, he’s become a consistently entertaining actor who enlivens the flicks in which he appears. Rudd does this for Body, as he brings his good comic chops to a role that otherwise could be almost as irritating as Kate.
Even better, Bell proves to be an absolute delight as Ashley. I don’t think I’d heard of her before this film, but I think she does really well. She’s not traditionally beautiful; as harsh as this may sound, she actually looks a bit like Sandra Bernhard. However, she possesses a lot of sex appeal, probably because she has a killer body. Parker’s prettier, but Bell’s physique easily wins that contest.
And Bell offers a great comedic presence. The psychic/caterer could – and probably should - have been a dopey one-note part, but Bell adds real personality to Ashley. We immediately accept Ashley and Henry as a couple – and virtually every guy in the audience will immediate fall for her as well. She turns in an excellent piece of acting in a part that would’ve made her a star if anyone had seen the movie.
When Body turns emotional and serious during its third act, it tends to sputter. However, I don’t fault it for those slower parts, especially since they need to exist in terms of plot. Besides, the rest of the movie entertains enough to compensate for a short stretch of less enjoyable material. Body won’t qualify as a classic, but it does become a very pleasant surprise.