- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2008

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on www.commonsensemedia.org.

‘Over Her Dead Body’

Rating: PG-13

Common Sense Media: On. For ages 13 and older.

(out of five stars)

Running time: 98 minutes

Common Sense review: Eva Longoria Parker plays Kate, a Type A bridezilla who is accidentally crushed to death by an ice sculpture on the day of her wedding to Henry (Paul Rudd), a loving veterinarian. One year after her death, Henry’s sister (Lindsay Sloane) persuades him to see Ashley (Lake Bell), a part-time psychic, to communicate with Kate’s ghost.

Because Kate believes it’s her ghostly mission to keep Henry away from the pretty, single medium, she reveals herself to Ashley and proceeds to sabotage the relationship. The sole voice of reason is Dan (Jason Biggs), Ashley’s best friend, who warns her that any relationship involving an angry ghost is bad news. Nevertheless, Ashley and Kate continue to spar like vindictive high school girls fighting over a guy.

“Over Her Dead Body” is yet another entry in the “Ghost”-inspired subgenre of love stories. First-time feature director Jeff Lowell obviously also stole some of the tone of “John Tucker Must Die” (which he wrote) for the scenes between Ashley and Kate. The result is a lack of emotional connection with either woman. Would a ghost really spend all of her time annoying the psychic her former fiance is dating rather than to reaching out directly to her loved one? Would a psychic who for the first time actually sees someone from the beyond act like a 16-year-old because the ghost’s beloved is “cute”?

It’s not that the movie is awful; it’s just blah — the kind of fluff that only very young girls would find romantic. There are occasional laughs, mostly thanks to Mr. Rudd’s charming wit and a couple of slapstick scenes involving Mr. Biggs. The actresses are the weak spots, lacking the comedic chops to make their characters work. Both come off as petty and overly polished (especially in the case of Miss Longoria Parker, who looks as if she would never appear in a film if every hair weren’t perfectly in place and every form-fitting outfit sprayed on her curves). An ice-queen ghost and a shallow psychic-caterer? Neither seems to deserve the sweet vet.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that this romantic comedy’s star, Miss Longoria Parker, is popular (and familiar to teens) not just for her starring role in “Desperate Housewives” but also for her tabloid-followed celebrity marriage to NBA player Tony Parker. There’s no gratuitous content in the film: The language is standard for the PG-13 rating, there’s no violence or overt product tie-ins, and the one (aborted) love scene is more humorous than sexy.

Families can talk about how Hollywood portrays the afterlife. Can you think of other movies that focus on a ghost trying to communicate with someone or change something among the living? How do the representations of ghostly life differ? Children: Do you think this movie has a happy ending? Why or why not?

Sexual content: Henry and Kate kiss and hug on their wedding day. Ashley and Henry kiss and fool around in bed. (She’s wearing lingerie.)

Language alert: Standard fare for PG-13 film.

Violence alert: Kate is crushed by an ice sculpture, but viewers don’t see it happen. In a funny but slightly creepy scene, Kate levitates and talks in a loud voice while trying to scare Ashley.

Social behavior alert: Ashley agrees to scam Henry about communicating with his dead fiancee. Kate uses her time as a ghost trying to sabotage a potential relationship between Henry and Ashley.

Alcohol/tobacco/drug alert: Adults drink beer and wine at dinner.

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