A possessive ghost outrageously disrupts the life of her ex-fiance’s new girlfriend in “Over Her Dead Body,” a comedy that, like the recent “P.S. ILove You,” should constitute grounds for a moratorium on the use of spousal phantoms as dramatic devices. The occasional spark generated by the romantic leads keeps things watchable, but barely. The predominant formulaic hokum limits the charm.
The film marks the feature directorial debut of writer-director Jeff Lowell. His résumé contains primarily TV scripts (“Just Shoot Me,” “The Drew Carey Show”), and he delivers essentially a big-screen sitcom.
Eva Longoria Parker, of “Desperate Housewives” fame, also makes a TV-to-cinema move, starring as Kate, a control-freak bride. In a scene that edgier films might present as dark-comic justice, Kate gets crushed to death on her wedding day by an ice sculpture that she’s loudly and annoyingly criticized.
A year later, urged by his sister, Chloe (Lindsay Sloane), the still-grieving groom — a skeptical veterinarian named Henry (Paul Rudd) — visits a psychic named Ashley (Lake Bell), who also runs a catering business with a culinarily challenged assistant (Jason Biggs) who doubles as her gay best friend. Chloe hopes that Ashley will contact Kate’s spirit and that Kate will tell Henry to start dating again.
Instead, Henry and Ashley fall in love, and Kate, appearing in ghost form, jealously objects. She pulls wicked, other-worldly stunts on Ashley in an effort to divide the pair.
Combining relationship-themed dialogue with flat-out raunch, Lowell seems to be aiming for a mix of Woody Allen and the Farrelly brothers, but he achieves insufficient wit or oomph. He also dooms things by upstaging human moments with sorry gags: a fat-dog bit and a “Wild Hogs”-like mustard mishap, among them.
Saddled with such sludge, the actors can’t sparkle, and that can prove fatal for a romantic comedy. Rudd (“Knocked Up,” “The Chateau”) and relative newcomer Bell generate electricity, but Lowell draws little voltage from them. Longoria Parker can’t make the poorly conceived Kate funny, formidable, or nasty enough to succeed as a big-screen comic force. Tediously demanding and cosmetically minded, Kate can’t convince us Henry could ever have loved her.
The sum total isn’t so much a supernatural disaster as 95 minutes of mediocrity stemming from a premise that, in more-adept hands, might have, at best, shone mildly. For sharper comic takes on materialized dead loved ones, rent “Truly Madly Deeply” or “Volver.”
Over Her Dead Body
Starring Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd, Lake Bell and Jason Biggs
Written and directed by Jeff Lowell
Running time 1 hour 35 minutes