My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor, language, and brief nudity
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Luke Wilson, Uma Thurman, Anna Faris, Eddie Izzard, Rainn Wilson, Wanda Sykes
Director: Ivan Reitman
Screenplay: Don Payne
Review published July 24, 2006
Superhero films, as well as comic books, have often showcased the romantic side of those with superpowers and all of the difficulties of maintaining an active dating life. The hardest part isn't even trying to maintain one's secret identity, although that is definitely a constant chore. The real difficulty is even being able to get through one date without being interrupted by a crisis of some sort happening somewhere in the city that needs immediate attention. Assuming the date goes without a hitch, then there is the complication that comes with actually latching on to that special person, because the life of the superhero's significant other will be in constant jeopardy should the evil villains discover that the superhero has an Achilles' heel -- a helpless person that they care about. Further compounding the near-impossible dynamic, it's just too damned hard to get someone willing to put up with playing second fiddle to all of the city's victims in need. I haven't even mentioned all of the frustrating coitus interruptus that would surely occur whenever a siren is heard outside the bedroom window during the act of lovemaking.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend addresses many of these issues and more, as a romantic comedy where one person, in this case the woman, is also a superhero with a secret identity. Luke Wilson (Hoot, Legally Blonde 2) gets the starring nod as Matt Saunders, unlucky in love for so long, especially frustrated that the one girl he really likes in his office, Hannah (Faris, Scary Movie 4), is dating a male underwear model with a perfect physique. Things start looking up when Matt meets what he thinks is the girl of his dreams in Jenny Johnson (Thurman, Prime), a slender, statuesque woman who is also a real powerhouse in the sack. Trouble is, Jenny exhibits quite a bit of odd behavior, as she mysteriously leaves at a moment's notice, comes back looking like she's been in a tussle, and despite always having an explanation, she always looks like she has something to hide.
As the relationship blooms, the time comes for Jenny to finally divulge to Matt just who she really is. He takes the news well, even having a bit of fun role-playing with her persona as the savior of the city, G-Girl, the costumed superhero. However, things start to get not-so-fun when he sees a side to Jenny he doesn't like, as she is calculating, manipulative, and jealous of every attractive woman he comes in contact with, and in particular, Hannah. As much as he digs dating a superhero, he finds that he's better off not getting stuck in a relationship where he can't be his own man.
Jenny doesn't take the break-up well. In fact, she vows to make Matt's life a living hell, and that's precisely what she does, stealing his car, messing with him at his work and home, and always showing her presence whenever he does try to go out on another date. Matt has no recourse but to employ "fight or flight", opting for the latter until the former choice has some potential when a former boyfriend, the supervillain known as Professor Bedlam (Izzard, The Cat's Meow), offers Matt a way to stop the threat by taking away G-Girl's superpowers for good.
Perhaps the best compliment one might be able to make about My Super Ex-Girlfriend is that it is a refreshing idea for a film, filled with many cute, sometimes clever moments. Although the romantic difficulties have been dealt with many times in the past, where this film differs is by showing what can happen when the superhero just can't seem to let go, becoming an unstoppable force that could ruin a life, if not snuff out the one that jilted her altogether. Think Fatal Attraction on steroids.
This idea would seem rife with comedic possibilities, and while some of them are explored with adequate zip, for the most part, My Super Ex-Girlfriend plays it all just a few shades dumber than is really necessary to get laughs. It's never quite clear just why G-Girl has such outlandish insecurity issues, and why they come on so strong all of a sudden, except perhaps to contrive a bunch of dangerous situations for the male protagonist to get out of before he decides that she is a danger not only to him but to anyone around him she deems a potential mate.
Then there are the dead-end supporting players that look like they are always on the verge of something funny to say, but they never pan out. For some reason, they've cast geeky Rainn Wilson ("The Office", "Six Feet Under") as some sort of Vince Vaughn-type womanizer best buddy, but all he really ever does is try to impart some numbskull advice on relationships ("Dump her after the sex"). I can already see the reason that Matt is so unlucky in love -- he is listening to dating advice from a guy that can't seem to get a date, much less a meaningful relationship.
Wanda Sykes (Monster-in-Law, Over the Hedge) provides her usual repartee, only not really very funny, while Eddie Izzard, a man practically born to play a maniacal supervillain, is given almost nothing to do within the film to merit a comedian of his stature. We're not even treated to a scene where he might chew up some scenery, which could rightfully have been seen as desperate, but then, desperate times call for desperate measures. Reitman (Evolution, Six Days Seven Nights), who hasn't directed a truly winning comedy in over a decade, seems a bit clueless just how to play up longtime "Simpsons" writer Don Payne's screenplay for the proper laughs. He also doesn't appear to be aware that the ex-girlfriend-scorned shtick doesn't really have much comedic mileage. Perhaps worse, there really isn't a laugh to be found anywhere in the film after the plot to snatch away her superpowers is hatched.
There are probably worse ways to spend your time than in watching a fairly benign (if a bit overly racy) situational comedy like My Super Ex-Girlfriend, but at the same time, such a funny premise feels wasted here. While it may have looked hilarious on paper, the delivery is often bland throughout, finally imploding in the last few scenes where the entire cast is forced into slapstick shenanigans and obtusely-conceived farce.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend plays like the antithesis of the traditional costumed superhero. Based on outward appearances, it looks like it might pack a lot of punch, but once you look closer you'll discover that a 98-pound weakling quivers sheepishly underneath the mask and cape.
©2006 Vince Leo