[31 January 2007]
In My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Manhattan is a fantasy land where daily catastrophes are averted by last second interventions on the part of G-girl, a super-hot superhero with all the magic powers that CGI has to offer. Her extraordinary physical power and statuesque proportions are really just an extension of the film’s general attitude toward women. In this world, all women are gorgeous and inscrutable, and they have a dangerously unpredictable tendency to emasculate the men who worship them.
Following this logic, men get away with crudeness and misogyny behind their backs as if to level the playing field. Like the male characters in the Forty-Year Old Virgin, Luke Wilson’s sensitive architect and his lecherous buddy (The Office‘s Rainn Wilson) mimic the sexual aggression of hip hop lyrics and concoct reverse-psychology seduction techniques in private conversation, but stutter and submit to their more powerful counterparts when confronted with an actual attractive woman. The movie tries to find its humor in a literal version of the Mars and Venus situation, with Uma Thurman’s G-girl as the ultimate siren offering wild sex at the price of psychological and physical destruction, and Luke Wilson as her overwhelmed though captivated boyfriend.
Unfortunately, it offers no insight into sexual dynamics and never commits to the campy self-awareness it touches on. Instead, it hovers somewhere between sappy romantic comedy and action movie, falling back on lazy gender-reversal jokes and super hero tropes. Luke Wilson has carved his niche by playing nice guys, and in My Super Ex-Girlfriend he is blandness personified. He’s a successful architect with a dream apartment, though he lacks confidence with women. While his boorish friend and would-be dating coach’s bravado yields failure upon failure, Wilson’s indecisiveness and skepticism work in his favor. On a lark (and with some goading from the boor), he asks out a mousy but explosive Jenny Johnson, who turns out to be G-girl’s alter-ego. He falls into the role of a male Lois Lane; perpetually befuddled but beguiled by his new girlfriend, who grows increasingly clingy and domineering.
While ignoring the red flags that something about his new girlfriend is a bit off, he goes through the motions of metrosexual courtship to reap the rewards of superhuman sex. He dismisses her unusual physical prowess to the stereotype that uptight, neurotic women are tigers in bed. His mild manner also unwittingly wins the heart of his non-threatening co-worker (Anna Faris). She’s a caretaker and a do-gooder, but still poses an indirect threat in the form of her male-model boyfriend who pops up for some gentle intimidation just when the flirting gets underway, and he can’t seem to bring himself to dump Jenny and go for the one he really wants. It could have been interesting to watch a sensitive guy overwhelmed by powerful women around him, and you can imagine the character he might have created if his heart was in the role: observant and passively accepting his fate with a faint thread of sadness about what he cannot achieve. But Wilson clearly doesn’t want to be there. His delivery is inert and he remains fuzzy and out of focus. Uma Thurman, on the other hand, is rendered too sharply, and flatly. Thurman was born to play a super-hero, and G-girl was meant as a satire on her heavier role in Kill Bill, but she comes across as a gun-for-hire. Everything about her is generic: from her costume to her standard super-strength and speed powers. Her alter-ego, Jenny Johnson, a mousy everywoman (an effect achieved with an all-brown wardrobe and some glasses), also lacks specificity and detail. The main difference between the two women seems located in that most tired of equations: blondes are hot and brunettes are dowdy. Jenny’s neediness and neurosis can be mildly amusing, but she never transcends cliche’. All of the characters are so cartoonishly extreme that when Wilson’s character finally dumps her and all hell breaks out, it’s hard to cheer for her or to pity him. The splashy special effects are predictable, and both the sex and action scenes are both preposterous and easily forgotten. The film takes a stab at exploring the dynamic between a meek man and his controlling and insecure girlfriend, but fails to take either side. It never commits to being a satisfying revenge story for a jilted woman or a funny version of fatal attraction for a duped man, though it plays at both. This haziness of intent gives the film a haphazard feel and a junky look. While its characters operate under the guise of satire, they are simply borrowed from elsewhere with no elaboration or insight, and the actors know it. The action scenes are juvenile, but the sex jokes are way too raunchy for kids. We’re left to scavenge through for a few funny moments and some scenes stolen by a bright cast, particularly Wanda Sykes and Rainn Wilson. The DVD features some special effects based extended scenes, deleted scenes, and a music video for Molly McQueen’s “No Sleep 2 Nite”.