The fusion of effects-fueled action fantasy with comedy worked well for director Ivan Reitman 22 years ago in “Ghostbusters” and, less so, five years ago in “Evolution.” But, it fails to save his latest, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.” Uma Thurman, a female superhero with emotional problems and dating issues, doesn’t so much fight the forces of evil as battle the wit-starved movie’s torpor — indeed, her perf suggests what the entire film might have been. Late July launch helpfully separates pic from the “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’s” B.O. pillage, but auds aren’t likely to go for a long-term summer commitment.
Since it upends the love interest angle in every recent superhero pic from “Spider-Man” to “Superman Returns,” the central notion in Don Payne’s screenplay would seem irresistibly surefire (if more than a tad sexist): What if a woman with superpowers was not only able to stop crime and save the planet, but was also neurotic, possessive and insanely jealous?
The answer on screen is strangely uninspired, especially given both Reitman’s proven proclivities for jostling effects and laughs and Payne’s track record as a vet writer for “The Simpsons.”
First seen as a supersonic blur cutting across the Manhattan skyline, G-Girl (Thurman) hoists a getaway car driven by jewel thieves and dumps it in front of an NYPD precinct, while also making a definitive fashion statement in her black-leather getup, boots and long blonde mane.
But G-Girl has another, mousier, Clark-Kentish side as Jenny Johnson, who somehow attracts unlucky-in-love architect Matt (Luke Wilson).
Thurman doesn’t merely adopt glasses as a disguise, but an entire persona that hints at a librarian-type who’s stayed deep in the bookstalls far too long. Just under the surface is a sexually starved gal looking for love and more than a bit fatigued at having to be on call for all the latest New York crises.
Jenny runs a happening art gallery and lives in a cool apartment, though this lifestyle doesn’t seem to match her personality.
Matt is pure vanilla, a blankly nice guy who’s given nothing but bad advice by woefully unfunny best buddy Vaughn (Rainn Wilson) and slow to pick up on the signals sent by co-worker Hannah (Anna Faris).
Just as Matt senses that something’s wrong with Jenny, he’s abducted by Professor Bedlam (an oddly cast Eddie Izzard), who demands details of Jenny’s private life. In a brief sequence that’s typical of the movie’s half-developed action pieces, Bedlam hangs the uncooperative Matt upside down by a rope off the Statue of Liberty and is saved at the last moment by G-Girl.
Jenny now decides to reveal her secret to Matt, and the sparkle in Matt’s eyes at the prospect of shtupping a superhero is one of the only moments where the chemistry between him and Jenny rises above the simmer level. Simply spotting Hannah in Matt’s arms unleashes Jenny/G-Girl’s jealous wrath, and the rest of the movie is consumed with this super ex-g.f. trashing Matt’s life, from zapping his goldfish with laser beams to tossing sharks into his bedroom.
Scenes that are neither amusing nor rousing clog the movie, though Reitman finds brief respite with a lovely flashback illustrating how Jenny gained her powers.
All else pales next to Thurman’s daring characterization and her unnerving flair for letting a storm of warring emotions play out on her face. Luke Wilson sticks to his most reliable mode, reacting wide-eyed to everything around him and trying to stay normal, although he skirts with being plain dull.
Faris leaves only a faint impression, while Rainn Wilson grows more annoying by the minute. Brilliant comic originals like Izzard and Wanda Sykes may simply be too original to jibe with such uninspired material.
Sleek production elements, from lensing to design, lack any real verve to lend pic a distinct look or style. Teddy Castellucci’s overdone score tries to make up for the movie’s general lack of oomph.