Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My Super Ex-Girlfriend / *** (PG-13)

Jenny Johnson/G-Girl: Uma Thurman
Matt Saunders: Luke Wilson
Hannah: Anna Faris
Vaughn: Rainn Wilson
Professor Bedlam/Barry: Eddie Izzard
Carla: Wanda Sykes

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Ivan Reitman. Written by Don Payne. Running time: 95 min. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, crude humor, language and brief nudity).

OK, now I’m even beginning to question my own integrity as a movie critic. Over the past few weeks, I’ve given three star reviews to at least four films that have been certified rotten by the film critics’ compendium website Rotten Tomatoes. The last time I panned a film was over two months ago.

I my defense, I will say that I’ve only been reviewing films this summer that I have seen in theaters. If I were dicussing video rentals, I could let you know that I felt Harrison Ford’s “Firewall” seemed to tell its audience to think without really wanting them to. I could tell you how dull Rob Reiner seems to have become even though his “Rumor has it…” had good intentions and an ellipsis. And I could warn you that the comic book actioner “Ultraviolet” is the worst movie I’ve seen since 2000’s remake of “Rollerball”, but that might be an insult to “Rollerball”.

“My Super Ex-Girlfriend” is a silly movie. It’s predictable, formulaic and adds little to the superhero or romantic comedy genres. It has stock characters and offers no challenges for the audience. Yet it does what it is attempting to do and carries a string of laughter throughout. While it aspires to little beyond a desire to humor its audience, it works as a comedy and even offers a slightly new way of looking at the differences between men and women, if only for comedic purposes.

The film follows the hapless romantic life of Matt, played by Luke Wilson (“Old School”). It has been six months since his last romance, with a girl who all of Matt’s closest friends describe as “crazy.” Matt is constantly badgered to get back into the dating game by his best friend Vaughn (Rainn Wilson of NBC’s “The Office”), who deludes himself that he is a ladies man. Of course, Matt secretly harbors feelings for his office buddy Hannah (Anna Faris, “Scary Movie”). Check off one romantic comedy requirement right there.

One day in the subway Vaughn spots a bookish looking woman and encourages Matt to ask her out, reasoning that the quiet ones are always such “vixens” in the sack. Despite an initially cold reaction from the woman with the alliterated name of Jenny Johnson, she eventually agrees to a date. Matt’s initial impression is that she is a little weird and “clingy.” He soon learns that some of her quirky behavior is due to the fact that she is also the city’s resident superhero, G-Girl.

Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill”) is perfect in both of her personalities, the desperate Jenny and the powerful G-Girl. Thurman lets her comedic chops salivate with her frantic attempts to seem normal for her new boyfriend. During the early moments of their relationship we’re treated to one of the funnier sex scenes seen in a while.

Eventually Matt realizes that Jenny really is clingy and has other personality defects that result from having lived in her own world of extraordinary power for so long. He also realizes an opportunity to allow Hannah to know his true feelings for her. Luke Wilson is also perfect, capturing that sense of walking on thin ice just long enough to escape and run screaming away.

Wilson and Thurman do a virtuous job carrying what is basically a tired romantic comedy plot. Man loves woman but feels he can’t have her because she is already spoken for, hooks up with another woman who makes him realize the first woman is worth the risk. Their support staff is also expertly cast. The ever-underrated Faris has that bubbliness that makes her irresistible, and Rainn Wilson (no relation to Luke) is a uniquely grotesque version of the slimy best friend.

British drag comedian Eddie Izzard (“Ocean’s 12”), on the other hand, seems somewhat of a stretch as G-Girl’s arch nemesis Professor Bedlam. He has the abuse and mistreatment of both his victims and his henchmen down. There is a good laugh when he is testing the strength of G-Girl’s hair and the blade of his saw flies off and into a lackey’s chest. But he never really comes across as someone who could terrorize an entire city in the same way that G-Girl champions it. Plus, the secret behind his evil is a little hard to swallow given his flamboyant nature.

Despite the predictability of the movie’s plot, director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”) and screenwriter Don Payne (TV’s “The Simpsons”) keep the jokes smart and rapid. While not high art, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” kept me well amused from beginning to end. Perhaps this critic is just a softy, but this is one movie that will give you a few laughs if you’re willing to let it.

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