Film Review: Actors keep ‘Dead Body’ afloat

It’s not exactly uncommon these days for an entire screenplay to sort of evolve from one central pun or an amusing twist on a well-known idiom. Over Her Dead Body decided to really take it and run, ending up with a product that’s some kind of weird Shakespearian hybrid of Casper the Friendly Ghost and every tale of a woman scorned. Hell hath no fury, as they say.

If any serious film aficionado actually took a second to look at the plot, he or she would find it to be eerily similar to that of 1945’s Blithe Spirit – if they didn’t gag themselves with a spoon first. Their loss, however, is the common American audience’s gain apparently, as this is the kind of thing that tends to get eaten up. It’s moralistic, very "laugh-out-loud" and has just the most ghastly soundtrack.

What we have here is the story of Kate, a feisty bridezilla (Eva Longoria Parker) who dies on her wedding day and, instead of resting in peace, decides to haunt and bother her former fiancee (Paul Rudd) Henry’s new love interest Ashley (Lake Bell), a psychic.

Rudd does what he does best – be hysterical. In this role, however, he has the added benefit of not having to compete with other monsters of comedy, so he is allowed to shine. This isn’t to say that the rest of the cast doesn’t pull their weight; he’s just the big fish in a small, uproarious pond. For example, the fourth wheel to all of this, Dan (Jason Biggs), Ashley’s "friend" and colleague, has no other function in Dead Body but to try and upstage Henry.

It’s easy to play the royal bitch, so Parker pulling it off well is no surprise. She is a Desperate Housewife, after all.

And then there is the relative newcomer Bell. She has, like Parker, mostly dabbled in television, but none of her projects really made her a household name – or named her No. 1 in Maxim’s top 100 for that matter. That should no longer be a problem. Aside from being beautiful and charming and principled, she is fearless in her humor and is not afraid to get dirty, which is quite useful to any actress looking to do comedy in this century and be successful.

Also to the everyday viewers’ collective delight, higher themes and questions of mortality and theology are largely ignored and unexplored in favor of killing the audience with humor. This film doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a good laugh, which is quite possibly its only redeeming factor.

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