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"MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND"
(2006) (Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: An average guy must deal with his new girlfriend being a secret superhero as well as her vindictive streak after he breaks up with her.
PLOT:
Matt Saunders (LUKE WILSON) is an ordinary New York City architect who's still looking for love months after breaking up with his last girlfriend. Despite obviously being attracted to his coworker and friend Hannah Lewis (ANNA FARIS) who's dating an underwear model, Matt can't seem to find love anywhere. That's a point that pains his friend Vaughn Haige (RAINN WILSON) who's always dispensing his brand of advice about matters of the heart and bed. Things seem to change when Matt meets Jenny Johnson (UMA THURMAN), a somewhat meek art gallery worker whose handbag he rescues from a thief.

Of course, little does he realize that she's really G-Girl, a superhero who flies and zips around the city everyday, battling crime, and saving the city's denizens. Despite that secret, the two quickly become lovers, but it's not long before Jenny shows her jealous streak, especially in regards to Hannah. Matt eventually has enough of this and tries to break up with Jenny, but that only leads to suffering the wrath of G-Girl.

With no other alternative, he ends up working with the superhero's arch nemesis, Professor Bedlam (EDDIE IZZARD), who wants to neutralize her powers for both professional and personal reasons. From that point on and as he and Hannah become an item, Matt tries to figure out how to handle his super ex-girlfriend and her jealous rage.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
I have no idea who first coined the phrase "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," but I bet is was a bystander who witnessed the event rather than the first man to make that mistake. Of course, not every break-up results in such neurotic, psychotic or even homicidal rage, but the general rule of thumb is that it's best to be avoided whenever possible.

That's especially true if your newly dumped girlfriend is a superhero, which just so happens to be the cute and slightly promising premise of "My Super Ex-Girlfriend." Putting a gender and sexual twist on the usual superhero action flick, the film offers a smattering of laughs, but never takes full advantage of the built-in potential. It's almost as if a load of cinematic kryptonite was just on the other side of director Ivan Reitman (recently with "Evolution," long ago with "Stripes" and "Ghostbusters") and his cast and crew as they conceived and then tried to pull off this comedy.

Since failed relationships are a fact of life in the real world, they've obviously been well-represented in film form. Some are good, some bad and the rest are mediocre, but the best play off and sometimes up the universal elements of what's usually a painful experience for all involved. And some of the more entertaining ones get a bit subversive in their approach, as occurred with 2005's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and years earlier in "The War of the Roses."

Here, Reitman and screenwriter Don Payne take their sweet time getting to the point. Of course, they need to build up the relationship first before tearing it down, so we get to see how the average guy played by the bland Luke Wilson meets the mild-mannered assistant art gallery curator played by Uma Thurman. Although we know it right from the get-go, Matt doesn't realize she's the alter ego of G-Girl, a high-flying superhero who keeps the Denizens of Gotham, uh Metropolis, I mean The Big Apple safe and secure.

After bouts of feigned advice from the best friend character played by Rainn Wilson in stereotypical movie fashion, Matt and Jenny quickly become an item. That leads to the film's funniest sight gag involving a superhuman sexual encounter that leaves his bed worse for the wear (the filmmakers were so enamored with this that they return to it later and then one-up the visual gag), as well as a flight over the city that would leave Superman and Lois blushing in embarrassment.

Reitman and company aren't subtle (but then again, no part of the broadly played film is) in showing that Matt actually has buried hidden feelings for his coworker played by Anna Faris (although their boss -- played by Wanda Sykes doing her normal shtick -- can clearly see it).

That finally gets us moving toward the act that will lead to the film's title, but before we get there, Thurman has some fun playing with her character's growing jealousy. When an errant incoming missile is about to destroy NYC, she doesn't want to leave her boyfriend and his perky coworker alone together in a restaurant while she'd be off saving the day once again.

It's an obvious riff on the old bit about superheroes always doing the heavy lifting and sacrificing but receiving little to no personal gratitude from others, but the filmmakers don't go far enough or have enough fun with that like they should and could have (the same holds true for the meek man and powerful woman motif that runs throughout the film).

That also and more particularly applies to the comedic material once the break-up finally occurs. With G-Girl seemingly having endless abilities and opportunities to make Matt's life a living hell, one would imagine this is when and where the film would really take off. Beyond leaving him in the buff at an important business meeting and tossing a huge live shark into Hannah's apartment after she and Matt have become a couple, however, there just isn't enough fun and/or imagination regarding the plentiful potential.

Considering the film's ribald nature, I was expecting a bit of hanky panky interruptus on G-Girl's part (in attempting to stop Matt and Hannah's liaison) which could have resulted in all sorts of visual gags and more. But it's almost as if the filmmakers realized they spent too much time setting up the premise and thus needed to get things wrapped up.

That leads to Wilson's character reluctantly joining forces with Eddie Izzard who plays the villain by the name of Bedlam. Like Syndrome in "The Incredibles," his actions are motivated by being slighted in the past. Yet, while the actor thankfully plays down the villainous histrionics that usually accompany such characters, he's similarly hampered by not enough cleverness being injected into his role.

And so the film goes through the final motions to conclude its tale. While there are some amusing moments scattered throughout, most of the film feels like a missed effort. Not horrible but wasting its potential by taking too long to get to the meat of the story and then failing to mine that for all it's worth, the effort feels too weak to be super. Accordingly, "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed July 18, 2006 / Posted July 21, 2006


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