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Don't make her mad

She's a testy superhero. He's a sweet guy who realizes dating her is a mistake. Mayhem ensues in `My Super Ex-Girlfriend.'

July 21, 2006|Carina Chocano | Times Staff Writer

Watching "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," the new comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Don Payne, I experienced a little pang of nostalgia for Psycho Ex-Girlfriend. Remember? For a week in the spring of 2001, the website created by a newly single Dallas guy to house his world-class collection of crazy voicemail messages from a jilted lover racked up hundreds of thousands of hits a day. Alas, the whole thing to turned out to be a hoax, and all 53 MP3-fulls of alternating vitriol, contempt, unhinged rage and free-form despondency disappeared mysteriously into the ether. Psycho Ex may have been a fake, but as anyone who has ever been on the receiving, administering or witnessing end of a similar situation knows, she felt hilariously, horribly, triumphantly real .

"Ex-Girlfriend" continues in the proud tradition of Psycho Ex, rather fearlessly bumping up its commitment to the concept by making the ex-girlfriend super, as in bullet-proof. Uma Thurman plays Jenny Johnson, a neurotic assistant curator at an art gallery who moonlights as a caped savior-about-town. G-Girl, as she's known, has meteor-given powers that she uses for good -- only tetchily, and with kind of a bad attitude. Then again, you would be grumpy too if your freelance job kept cutting in on your dates and quiet evenings at home.

As G-Girl flies around saving the day to cheesy rousing music, you can't help but entertain the vain hope that a few more spoofs like this one will help put the exhausted, cranky superhero genre to bed already. So, one suspects, do the makers of "Ex-Girlfriend," as the real hero of the movie is not the rich, caped crusader with the split personality, but Matt Saunders, a chumpy, lovable psycho-magnet charismatically played by Luke Wilson. Matt has been nursing a long, moony crush on his cute assistant Hannah (Anna Faris). She, naturally, is going out with a male model, and likes Matt as a friend. Matt hasn't yet admitted his feelings for Hannah even to himself when he approaches Jenny on a dare from his piggish friend Vaughn (Rainn Wilson) on the subway one evening after work. Jenny shoos him, but when her purse is snatched and Matt saves the day (or tries to), she changes her mind. (As she tells him later, "You know, Matt, I have to help people every day, but nobody's ever helped me before you.")

Matt has reservations about the clingy, needy, defensive, jealous and turbo-intimate Jenny from their first, weird dinner together. ("I think I'm good at sex," she yammers nervously. "I don't know. You decide.") But he tries to make it work even after he discovers that she is being stalked by an arch-nemesis, professional super-villain Professor Bedlam (Eddie Izzard), who appears to be strangely fixated on her. Jenny, meanwhile, is uncomfortably fixated on him. As Matt becomes aware of his feelings for Hannah and gets his chance to act on them, his real troubles begin.

For a movie about an unstable superhero who dresses like Carrie Bradshaw after a gamma zap, "Ex-Girlfriend" is cleverly attuned to the real-life nadirs of big-city psychosexual dynamics. Thurman plugs thrillingly into her inner Alanis Morissette to bring to life a jilted super-heroine who mounts a massive vengeance campaign against the hapless guy who didn't like her back. It's no wonder that, unshackled from the snoozy trifecta of acceptable female characterizations (the picture of noble perfection, the blow-up doll, the victim), Thurman goes hog-wild. Super-womanhood is so taxing and tiresome, you forgive her for needing to blow off some steam. But despite G-Girl's inability to get dumped with dignity and her generalized threat to pets, she's no bunny boiler, sentenced to die by wifely hands. The movie doesn't purport to have her stand for all women, just the crazy ones, and as such, G-Girl is pure, soul-cleansing id catharsis. Charming as he is, it's hard not to thrill at the sight of G-Girl tossing a shark through Matt's window. Because, seriously, who hasn't wanted to do that?

*

\f7`My Super Ex-Girlfriend'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor, language and brief nudity

A Twentieth Century Fox release. Director Ivan Reitman. Screenplay by Don Payne. Producers Gavin Polone, Arnon Milchan. Director of photography Don Burgess. Editor Sheldon Kahn. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

In general release.

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