Over the past few years the superhero/comic book movie has firmly rooted itself within popular culture. Drawing largely from a body of work that spans back to the 1930s, filmmakers now have enough material from which to draw upon that I suspect this genre of cinema will be with us for quite some time.
That said, the comic book movie has become predictable to a certain extent. If a new character is getting the big screen treatment you can be sure it will be an origin story in which he/she will fight it out with his/her nemesis. Subsequent sequels – and we all know that if a film does remotely well there will be a sequel – has the hero/heroine fighting it out again with another villain or villains. When it comes down to it, it’s a simple recycle and reuse equation that employs the same filmic and narrative conventions over and over. My Super Ex-Girlfriend takes these established traditions and tries to do something different with them.
Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson) is a likeable single male who hasn’t had a date in a long time. When he meets Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman) – a woman who at first appears to be a reserved and somewhat eccentric art gallery assistant but who, in actual fact, is the superhero G-Girl – Matt can’t believe his luck. Unfortunately, when their relationship turns sour and Matt is forced to end things because of Jenny’s clingy and needy personality, she vows to turn his life into a living hell, utilising all her superpowers to do just that.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend has an excellent premise. It takes the fantasy world of the super hero and roots it partially in the world of reality. It’s an interesting twist on the standard comic book convention because it makes use of something as domestic as a relationship break-up as a key plot point. Two completely different worlds are brought together with often hilarious results. It’s a fantastic idea and you can tell that a Simpson’s staff writer was responsible for penning the script. Unfortunately, director Ivan Reitman’s execution of the source material is uninspired.
From the opening establishing shots I just knew that this film would not be handled in a serious enough manner. Reitman’s score is so schmaltzy and over-romanticised that during the opening credits I almost lost my before-movie-snack on several occasions. I know a film like this was never meant to be “serious” but when it comes down to the relationship between Jenny and Matt I couldn’t help but feel that if it had been handled differently I would have felt more for the characters involved. Reitman glosses over the intricacies of the break-up by maintaining a heightened comedic style throughout the film. The dramatic elements are not allowed to breath and the film suffers as a result.
Don Payne’s script has heart but is messy and badly written. There are some brilliant lines (look out for Matt’s line after Jenny breaks his bed while having sex with him) and nice ideas but – and this might be Reitman again – it never settles on how we are meant to identify and feel about the key characters, especially Uma Thurman’s.
One minute we sympathise, another we’re forced to dislike her intensely. Instead of settling on one character type the film see-saws between both and it becomes frustrating to watch. Thurman’s character’s back story could have been created in such a manner that it explained her psychotic tendencies and irrational behaviour but it isn’t and, as a result, the whole thing feels extremely random.
Thurman steals the show with her performance, however, and makes the best of the script she has been given. As always she is stunning. Another positive aspect to this film is that Anna Faris (she of the Scary Movie films) gets to play a more serious role as opposed to her usual slapstick routine – which she is quite brilliant at I must add. It’s refreshing to see her get a chance to stretch her legs.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend is a film that could have been so much better if Reitman had been able to effectively comedy and drama. Instead, he tries to maintain laughs throughout and the film fails as a result. I can’t help but wonder if a true comic book fan boy – like Kevin Smith – had directed this how it might have turned out. It’s not a terrible film but I expected much more from the premise.