Dir: Ivan Reitman. US. 2006. 96mins.
A tantalising comic premise about a beautifulsuperhero whose romantic frustration turns her into a vengeful stalker, Ivan Reitman's large budget action comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend plays to diminished power that is all set-upand no pay-off. In particular, this flat, increasingly mannered work sabotagesa droll, inventive performance by Uma Thurman in the underwrittentitle role.
Reitman's best comedies (Stripes,Ghostbusters, Dave) share an anarchic, impudent wit and generosity of feeling. My Super Ex-Girlfriend's screenwriter,Don Payne, comes from television (most notably The Simpsons). That tighter, compact mediaplays more naturally to his skills; here, his work in a larger emotional andphysical frame only magnifies the narrow characterisation that fatally undoes themovie.
A populist who often shows anunerring instinct for what audiences want, Reitman's films in recent years (Fathers' Day, Six Days SevenNights, Evolution) have shownsofter commercial returns. Opening in the US on July 21, My Super Ex-Girlfriend may find conditions challenging given currentmarketplace incumbents like Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and the imminentarrival of Miami Vice. A fair firstweekend is likely to translate into a quick fadeout. International prospectsare likely to be similar.
Reitman and Payne take an interesting viewpoint, applyingthe playful, ritualistic sexual manners of contemporary New York professionalsagainst the neurotic emotional demands of a lonely superhero.
Early on, Reitman achieves some buoyancy and wit by juxtaposing thetentative emotional relationship of an architectural project manager MattSaunders (Wilson) and art curator Jenny Johnson (Thurman) against the fantasticadventures of a beautiful superhero known as G-girl.
Johnson is G-girl's alterego, and Thurman has great fun in the opening sections differentiating theemotional, physical, even sexual contrasts of her identities. There's awonderful moment during her seduction of Matt involving the confusion over herlingerie and superhero costume that imaginatively acknowledges how her sexualdrive is inhibited by her larger social obligation.
From the start Matt sensessomething off-putting about Johnson, and he breaks off the relationship becauseof her possessiveness and jealousy. "She's neurotic and distant," he complains.Naturally Jenny administers her own brand of comic vengeance and draws on herpowers to destroy his apartment, damage his car, humiliate him at work andundermine his more naturally affectionate relationship with beautiful officeco-worker Hannah (Faris).
But by this point Thurman'scharacter is too unappealing and the comedy too toxic and bitter (a flashbackthat reveals the source of her power shows Johnson to be the worst kind ofopportunist). More unsettling, the portrait of Jenny turns so creepy and thecomedy of revenge becomes so dominant that MySuper Ex-Girlfriend devolves into a misogynist's wet dream about thebeautiful career woman turned sexual annihilator.
Thurman has made an adroit,impressive career evolution from bombshell to stylisedaction star to expressive comedienne. But she's dependent on the material - andthis slight, belaboured comedy has a nasty, unpleasant underside.
Visually, the movie has a slack,unexciting look. The digital painting and visual effects work feels dull, andthe sense of flight and movement lack the poetry and visual flair of BryanSinger's Superman Returns.
S E Productions Inc
Twentieth Century Fox
Wendy Greene Bricmont
Margaret Anne Florence