The question with My Super Ex-Girlfriend isn’t so much whether or not director Ivan Reitman has lost his touch as it is whether or not he ever had a touch to lose.
Reitman became a hot director thanks to a pair of utterly disposable star vehicles, Meatballs (1979) and Stripes (1981), which became hits thanks to Bill Murray and the presence of other Saturday Night Live and Second City TV alumni. They were by no possible definition good movies, being more like TV sketches stretched to feature length. Then came Ghostbusters (1984), a film that ushered in the era of the effects-driven comedy — the exaggerated reputation of which Reitman has been coasting on ever since. And when he hasn’t been coasting on it, he’s been trying to duplicate it — Ghostbusters II (1989) and Evolution (2001).
This latest effort is just more of the same … only less so. The basic concept is not a particularly strong one — nor a very appealing one. It attempts to milk laughs out of the singularly unfunny situation of watching poor schnook Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson) being terrorized by psycho-stalker ex-girlfriend Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman), who also happens to be a superhero known as G-Girl.
It’s a bit like Fatal Attraction — minus lapin dans le pot — played for laughs. The problem is that it’s not nearly as intentionally funny as Fatal Attraction was unintentionally funny in its excessive horror film melodrama. This is partly due to the fact that Thurman’s character is written and played too straight. She’s more creepy than funny. It doesn’t help that Wilson is such a bland actor that it’s like watching a battle of wits between Gore Vidal and Larry the Cable Guy. There’s not only no contest, it just seems cruel.
Worse, it’s one of those films — the kind where you enter the theater knowing the premise and then have to slog through half the movie to get to the point. The first half of the proceedings are nothing but setup, and pretty tedious setup that relies way too much on Matt listening to the advice of his crude, sex-obsessed buddy Vaughn (Rainn Wilson, TV’s The Office), who is a walking repository of arrested development horniness. It wears out its adolescent welcome very quickly, not in the least because its PG-13 requirements keep it from ever attaining true raunchiness. It’s more like listening to a 12-year-old who just learned about sex — or thinks he has. (I admit he played well to the 17-year-old seated behind me, who laughed like Beavis and Butthead combined whenever Wilson opened his mouth.)
When Vaughn isn’t the focus, the movie throws in Wanda Sykes (Monster-in-Law) as the ultra-prudish boss who sees sexual harassment in everything Matt does. And when this isn’t the focus, the film is busy setting up Matt with the girl he ought to be interested in, Hannah (Anna Faris, Scary Movie 4). And to top it off, copious footage is devoted to establishing the backstory between Jenny/G-Girl and her arch enemy Barry/Dr. Bedlam (comic Eddie Izzard, who hasn’t been in a movie that offered him anything since The Cat’s Meow in 2001).
For a movie in which not all that much really happens, My Super Ex-Girlfriend is certainly — in the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut (or Billy DeWolfe) — busy, busy, busy. In the end, it’s a movie that just lies there. It’s not actively bad, so much as it’s just not good. Actively bad would have at least been more interesting. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor, language and brief nudity.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke