Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Death doesn’t become her

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Dale Robinette⁄Gold Circle Films⁄New Line Cinema
Ashley (Lake Bell) pretends to have a psychic vision as she touches Henry (Paul Rudd).
In TV’s ‘‘Desperate Housewives” Eva Longoria Parker plays Gabrielle: A calculating, vengeful, kittenish, insufferable, tottering on spike heels and not above a bit of murder to get her way.

In the slight comedy ‘‘Over Her Dead Body,” she plays much the same character, the sharp-tongued Kate Spencer.

There is one difference: Kate spends most of the movie dead. One minute, she’s ordering the staff about, preparing for her own wedding and the next minute, she’s bopped into the hereafter. The hereafter will quickly regret it.

The erstwhile fiancé, mourning veterinarian Henry Mills (Paul Rudd), consults a psychic who is also a part-time caterer, apparently something common in California. Ashley (Lake Bell) accidentally summons the late Kate, who is looking great, and the two women declare war over Henry’s heart, soul and realms south.

The film’s theology, like most of its production, is woozy at best. At one point Ashley gets her priest (William Morgan Sheppard) to perform an exorcism, and Kate retaliates with a first in the annals of haunting.

Director Jeff Lowell’s supernatural romantic comedy proves tissue-thin in the supernatural, romance and comedy departments — not an easy thing to do. The moviemakers are too willing to settle. It’s like some latter-day equivalent of a Doris Day movie, or going through the pick-up lane in a fast food carryout.

A cringing subplot involves Ashley’s catering partner and general doofus Dan (Jason Biggs). Sometimes even the most desperately banal movies have good bits. Longoria Parker makes an interesting foil to Bell’s big healthy flake. Then there’s the ending.

The film builds to a lovely bizarre parrot-assisted denouement that is gleeful beyond all reason. This is one of those movies where everyone has a splendid derriere, the cheery veterinarian’s office hasn’t a speck of fur on the floor and even a half-baked psychic⁄caterer lives in a splendid apartment. ‘‘Over Her Dead Body” has the hot breath of Hollywood movie men all over it. From angels and ministers of grace such as these, defend us.

Over Her Dead Body

Rated PG-13. 110 minutes.

Supernatural romantic comedy.

Cast: Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd, Lake Bell, Jason Biggs, Lindsay Sloane, Stephen Root,

William Morgan Sheppard

Director: Jeff Lowell