Jeff Lowell's supernatural screwball comedy is a derivative mix of GHOST, HEAVEN CAN WAIT and Noel Coward's classic BLITHE SPIRIT, in which a sharp-tongued spirit torments her still-living — and newly remarried — husband. But derivative doesn't always mean dull, and this madcap paranormal love triangle is charming on its own terms.
What should have been the happiest day of controlling bride-to-be Kate's (Eva Longoria Parker) life turns out to be her last: She's accidentally crushed under a tumbling ice sculpture. When Kate comes to, she's in an all-white waiting room where an angel tells her that yes, she's dead, but no, she's not ready to move on into the afterlife. Kate has unfinished business among the living, and until she completes her mission she's not going anywhere except back to Earth. A year later, Kate's still-grieving fiance, veterinarian Henry (Paul Rudd), is moping about his house and refusing to even consider dating. To help snap him out of it, Henry's kooky sister, Chloe (Lindsay Sloane), takes him to see psychic/caterer Ashley (Boston Legal's Lake Bell), whom Chloe hopes will contact Kate and convince Henry that it's time to pick himself up and move on. In the event that Ashley doesn't make contact, Chloe gives her Kate's diary so she can bone up on the minutiae she will use to fool a skeptical Henry into believing otherwise. Ashley at first resists: She may not be the best psychic in the word, but she's no scam artist. She finally relents when Chloe convinces her that the deception is really a good deed in disguise. The scheme works, maybe a little too well: Henry not only begins to believe that somehow, somewhere, Kate is encouraging him to soldier on, but he even begins to fall for Ashley. Enter the real Kate, whom only Ashley can see and hear. Controlling and possessive as ever, Kate's back under the mistaken impression that her mission on Earth is to keep Henry and his new lover apart, and uses every weapon in her arsenal of bitchy, ghostly tricks to drive Ashley away.
Like many latter-day romantic comedies, Lowell's script runs out of things for his would-be lovers to do long before it's time to cue the third-act get-together. He fills the gap with an uninteresting romantic subplot involving Ashley's gay catering partner (Jason Biggs), and while Biggs is funny enough, his storyline feels like the padding it is and the movie stalls several times before finally getting back into gear. Longoria Parker is used sparingly and surprisingly well, but the real star of the film is third-billed Bell. She has the endearing goofiness essential for a screwball heroine; like Irene Dunne, Ginger Rogers and Carole Lombard before her, she may find herself at the butt-end of a physical joke, but she's never a complete fool. And amid all the pratfalls and spilled mustard, the film has just enough depth and good taste to remember that, after all is said and done, Kate's story is still one of a girl who died on her wedding day, and it ends on an unexpectedly graceful note. Does it say something profound about the human condition? Of course not, but do you really want it to? leave a comment --Ken Fox