A high-concept comedy that's out of sync with the genre and the zeitgeist, “My Super Ex-Girfriend,” Ivan Reitman's latest effort, is even less funny than his previous one, “Evolution,” which should give you a clear idea of what to expect.
The second comedy this season about breaking up (after the Aniston-Vaughn vehicle “The Break-Up,” also a bad movie), the Don Payne-written comedy revolves around Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson), a guy who thinks hes finally found the perfect girlfriend, the beautiful Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman). She just happens to be a superhero G-Girl.
A seemingly typical New Yorker who works in an art gallery, Jenny wants to meet a special person. But shes continually frustrated in her efforts to find Mr. Right, due to her other job, as the superhero G-Girl. Problem is, Jenny lacks the temperament to be a superhero and the temperament for romance.
At first glance, Jenny, a vivacious and beautiful woman, appears to be quite a catch.” But it doesnt take long for Matt to realize theres something off about Jenny. For starters, she talks too much, and hasnt yet mastered the fine art of self-censorship. Jenny proves to be too much to handle for a regular guy like Matt, a successful architect who, like most singles, is looking for love.
Given Jennys abilities, even lovemaking becomes a risky proposition, thus frustrating Mike's fantasy about having hot sex with a super-powered woman. Jenny and Matts first time involves a bed rocking back-and-forth against a wall. Another amorous encounter finds Jenny and a near-hysterical Matt joining the Mile-High Club.
After their supercharged couplings, and Matts growing awareness of Jennys neuroses, he decides to break up with her. But hell hath no fury like a superwoman scorned, and Jenny goes for revenge. First, she smashes through his ceiling, leaving a gaping hole. Then, she hangs him off a point in the crown of the Statue of Liberty, before wrecking his Mustang, putting it in perpetual orbit.
Jenny's rationale is simple: Matt broke her heart, and now it's her turn to break everything he has. Hence, she's also determined to destroy Matts burgeoning affair with his colleague Hannah (Anna Faris of the Scary Movie series), who's coming off a less-than-satisfying relationship with a vacuous underwear model. Hannah and Matt, both in a recovering mode, share a deep friendship that quickly blossoms into passion.
For super-villain, the comedy offers Professor Bedlam (the always original actor Eddie Izzard), as Jennys arch-nemesis. Theres nothing really super about Bedlam; hes just a regular man, with 10,000 times more money, intelligence and taste than the average person. But like Jenny, theres something off about him. Bedlam's goal is to neutralize Jenny; he wants to permanently strip away her powers so shell be like any other run-of-the-mill, crazy ex-girlfriend.
A backstory reveals that Jenny and Bedlam were best friends in high school, until Jenny obtained her superpowers from a meteorite. With her new abilities–and hot new look–Jenny became very popular, leaving behind a heartbroken Barry. (Bedlam comes from his given name, Barry Edward Lambertand hes not really a professor.)
Out of desperation, the filmmakers pile up other eccentric characters and bizarre situations. As if Bedlam and Jenny arent making life difficult enough for Matt, his action is also being scrutinized by his boss, Carla Dunkirk (Wanda Sykes, of “Curb Your Enthusiasm), who's sensitive to potential sexual harassment in the workplace and ever-vigilant about inappropriate behavior.
A quintessentially 1980s director, Reitman is responsible for some of the best comedies during that decade, including Ghostbusters, Stripes, Meatballs and Ghostbusters 2. In addition, he produced such hits as Old School, Road Trip, Private Parts and Animal House. However, over the past decade, Reitman seems to have lost his touch with new comedic ideas, so he rehashes old stuff.
Payne has his own impressive portfolio, having been a longtime writer/co-executive producer on the The Simpsons. Reitman and Payne take the familiar notion of a “relationship gone awry” to an extreme, but they didn't ask themselves for what purpose and to what effect The only novelty is that the super-heroic girl is neurotic and needy, an idea that's not even good enough for a comic-strip.
End result is a comedy that exists in limbo, neither grounded in reality (as bad as “Break-Up” was, at least it made an effort to look semi-realistic), nor in a recognizable comic-strip realm.
There may be some comedic juice left in stories about nerds, but the filmmakers have not found it. Their hope to cash in on the presumably prevalent fantasy of ordinary men to have a superhero for a girlfriend also misfires due to PG-13 rating, since sexual fantasy cannot be depicted as such.
Besides, the notion of a super-woman dating a regular guy had been explored before in TV sitcoms like Bewitched (which Nora Ephron made into a terrible comedy last summer with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell) and the whimsical I Dream of Jeannie. Payne's addition to the formula, that it's the regular guy who decides to end his relationship with the crazy woman (the ex-girlfriend from hell) is not funny.
For Reitman, only one actress could handle the characters stunt-heavy superheroics and comedic requirements, Uma Thurman, whom he treats as a special effect. Beautiful, effortlessly sexy, and with rigorous stunt work based on Tranatino's “Kill Bill” films, Thurman looks lost in a senseless role that calls for a vulnerable, super-neurotic super-woman (I doubt that any actress can get away with such a concept)
As the storys straight man and the heart of the film, Luke Wilson (Owen's brother) does right the likeability of a quintessentially American everyman, but lacks comedic skills and his timing is poor.
Designer Laura Jean Shannon's sexy outfits for Thurman, which turn her into a moder-day super-hero fashionista, provide a minor but necessary reward for the eyes considering how flat the movie is.