Fox // 2006 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // December 15th, 2006
It's a bird...it's a plane...it's a limp little romantic comedy.
Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson, The Royal Tenenbaums) has incredibly bad luck with women. Unlike his loser pal Vaughn (Rainn Wilson, The Office), who seems to simply luck into potential partners, Matt appears destined to hook up with the neediest, most neurotic women in all of New York. One day on the subway, he runs into Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. 1) and is immediately smitten. Over the course of a couple of dates, the two become close -- VERY close. After a particularly powerful night of sex, Matt learns the truth about Jenny -- she is G-Girl, famous NYC superhero and guardian of all that's good and fair. But Jenny/G-Girl is far from perfect, and she grows incredibly jealous over Matt's friendship with a co-worker (Anna Faris, Brokeback Mountain). More importantly, Matt finds himself attracted to co-worker Hannah as well. It's at this point when all comic book Hell brakes loose. Jenny uses her powers to make Matt's life miserable, while he tries to protect his pals from his Super Ex-Girlfriend's wrath. As if all this wasn't enough, G-Girl's mortal enemy, Professor Bedlam (Eddie Izzard, Oceans Twelve) wants Matt to help him destroy her, once and for all. Talk about your screwed-up love life!
What in the name of the dying art of motion-picture comedy has happened to Ivan Reitman? Once this funny filmmaker stood on the very cutting edge of cinematic cleverness, responsible for such rib-ticklers as Animal House, Meatballs, and Ghostbusters. After an early career producing horror films (mostly for fellow Canadian David Cronenberg), he switched over to humor. Between helming and helping, he managed to define the late '70s/early '80s ideal of post-SNL silliness. While never the most consistent of filmmakers (he followed up Ghostbusters with Legal Eagles, matched the witty political fable Dave with the dopey high-concept crap Junior), Reitman was typically a good judge of material. However, sometime near the end of the Greed decade, this formidable filmmaker went ape-shnit, deciding that movies like Beethoven, Casual Sex?, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, and Feds needed to be fostered. He added cinematic insult to injury by directing the dogs Father's Day (featuring Robin Williams and Billy Crystal at their most unfunny) and Six Days, Seven Nights. While some saw Evolution as a return to the special effects-style glory of his earlier work, its follow-up, 2006's lousy My Super Ex-Girlfriend confirmed what many had already feared; Reitman has completely lost his way, and the proof is provided by every static sequence in this horribly witless flop.
As a previous comic master, Reitman would be the first to recognize why this sloppy super-hero hilarity is so tedious. Character is crucial to comedy, since empathy and recognizability are key components in audience interaction. Once you have the viewer on the side of the storyline, you can then begin dropping the devilish bon mots. The biggest problem with My Super Ex-Girlfriend therefore derives directly from the individuals onscreen -- both as written and as played. Aside from the astonishing Uma Thurman, who should simply place Quentin Tarantino on retainer and be done with it, no one here is up to the middling material they are provided. Luke Wilson, proving that his brother is the only member of the creative clan with a nose for consistent scripts, is so out of his leading-man league here. He's so shallow that he actually has you imagining other actors in the role. Wilson just can't make self-effacing put-downs work, and that is all Matt Saunders is. This was a role made for someone like Jack Black, a performer able to pull off the combination of arrogance and awkwardness with imp-like ease. Here, when Wilson makes a joke at his own expense, it sounds half-baked, not hilarious. Similarly, Rainn Wilson is given the kooky sidekick part, the kind of persona Chris Farley or John Candy would bunt directly out of the ballpark. But he's so passive, so locked down in his on-screen Office persona that his come-ons aren't aggressively funny, just pathetic and sad.
Thurman, no matter her able talents, can't save this meandering mess. Her G-Girl is supposed to be a super-powered nerd who sheepishly enjoys her lifesaver status. It's empowerment as empathy, highlighted by her rather ordinary origin story. All we discover from her past is that, even in high school, extraterrestrial-based skills still might not make you cool. Her supposed past paramour -- and eventual nemesis -- played in a cloying, comatose manner by Brit wit Eddie Izzard, offers nothing but exposition eventuality, and the whole attitude that New York takes toward having an actual superhero in their midst is mind-bogglingly misdirected. Instead of playing up the faux-fame tabloid angle that would obviously be part of any discussion of such a situation (just ask Superman Returns), G-Girl is like a local street musician -- something Manhattanites endure on the way to their day-to-day directives. In essence, there is so much more that can be done with this premise, but somehow screenwriter Don Payne (who should know better, given his Simpsons pedigree) manages to miss every single significant chance to explore them. Maybe he thought this was the quirky post-modern way to go. Unfortunately, it just leaves a bewildering bad taste in the audience's aesthetic. Reitman's folly is fathomable -- he's been off his game for more than a decade. Everyone else attached to this travesty had better take individual inventory. One would hate to see My Super Ex-Girlfriend marking the start of someone else's personal filmic freefall.
Since Fox is so sure that we critics will instantly bootleg a lame-ass effort like this all over the Internet, they provided the Verdict with a subpar screener copy that does not accurately reflect the final tech specs that will be sitting on your standard B&N shelves. A quick perusal of the 'Net suggests that the final DVD will be a flip disc product, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image on one side, absolutely pointless full-screen stupidity on the other. In addition, there will be a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a mediocre collection of extras. Aside from the little Fox logo that randomly appeared throughout the movie's presentation (not a video "bug," mind you, but a full-fledged 20th Century design emblazed on random sections of the screen) the screener's transfer was terrific, very bright, and full of correct colors. On the sound side, the movie is very basic, failing to fully explore the directional elements of the channels until the obligatory action scenes. As for the added content, the single-sided practice copy only had deleted scenes and the mindless music video. There was no "extended shark sequence" (as advertised) and the edited moments were unimportant and unnecessary. Obviously a reflection of the studio's faith in the material, the digital presentation of this title is professional -- and paltry.
With the flood of comic-book movies making their way into cineplexes year in and year out, it seems almost unbelievable that a movie like My Super Ex-Girlfriend hasn't been made before; now that NBC has hit ratings pay dirt with the serious version of this story (Heroes), the time for such an anarchic approach may have already come and gone. One thing is for certain, however. Ivan Reitman is officially a filmmaking has-been. If he makes more movies like this one, he'll threaten to destroy whatever lasting reputation he has left.
Review content copyright © 2006 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Music Video: Molly McQueen "No Sleep 2nite"
* Five Deleted Scenes
* Extended Shark Sequence