My Super Ex-Girlfriend

My Super Ex-Girlfriend


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Ivan Reitman's superhero/romantic comedy crossover, carefully timed to cash in on all the Superman Returns hoo-ha - and sure enough, here the tropes of Bryan Singer's film are turned inside out, with heroics taking a backseat to some (painfully) super sex, and everything played very much for laughs.

Replacing nerdy Clark Kent is the librarian-like Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman), who spends so much of her time single-handedly saving New York City as the high-flying G-Girl that any kind of normal civilian life for her has long been put on hold. Hence the problem: she is neurotic, needy, sex-starved, clingy, rude, and, as anyone who crosses her path is quick to realise, completely crazy. Which is not good for Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson), the nebbish architect who, on the advice of his disreputable friend Vaughn (Rainn Wilson), has just started dating her; and it gets even worse when Matt dumps her for his work-colleague Hannah (Anna Faris).

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Jenny does not take rejection lightly, and as Matt must contend with her vengeful fury of truly cosmic proportions, he finds himself in an uneasy alliance with Professor Bedlam (Eddie Izzard), Jenny's criminal arch-nemesis and one-time boyfriend, who will stop at nothing to neutralize her powers.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend sets itself up with a potentially nasty premise, but in the end sticks wholly to rom-com convention, with no-one getting killed and everyone coupling up. The super-antics only add to the silliness, but with a script by Don Payne, long-time writer for TV's The Simpsons, the dialogue is sharp and there are plenty of surreal situations to add touches of unpredictability to an otherwise by-the-numbers scenario. Here cars are sent into space, meteorites are kept in the fridge (alongside a ham), and, bizarrest of all, a giant snapping shark is thrown into the living room of a luxury high-rise apartment.

All of which is almost enough to distract from what is at heart a deeply misogynistic view of female empowerment. Jenny may take her super-grudge to psychotic lengths, but it is difficult to escape the impression that her much-emphasised "craziness" is closely tied in with her status as a strong, independent bluestocking and "a talker" (the latter stated unambiguously as a criticism) who takes the initiative, sleeps on top, and (almost literally) breaks balls - all qualities that this film endlessly mocks and demonises in much the same way that it also ridicules the feminism of Matt's boss Carla (Wanda Sykes).

Carla's concern that her staff should be protected from sexual harassment marks her out, according to the film's decidedly reactionary ideology, as little more than a bitch. On the other hand, while Vaughn's profoundly chauvinistic advice to Matt is the source of many of the film's best lines, in the end his loathsome world view seems strangely validated. For apparently the message here is that 'everyman' Matt would do better to throw in his lot with an easy-going push-over like Hannah than have to negotiate a relationship with the more multi-faceted, challenging Jenny.

These days it is impossible to make a superhero film without some sort of reflection of the post-9/11 context. In My Super Ex-Girlfriend, this is achieved through a forced, if rather telling, metaphor rooted in the body politic. On realising that his friend has finally had sex with Jenny, Vaughn comments: "You have invaded the female nation and spread your democracy." And there you have it: men's sexual relation to women being used to embody all the patriarchy and aggressive imperialism of Bush's America. It is precisely what made me sympathise, very much against the tendency of the film, less with the craven two-timing dumper of a hero than with his super ex.

Despite this being perhaps the most unflattering role that she has ever had to tackle, Uma Thurman reigns supreme as Jenny. Luke Wilson, on the other hand, does a bland turn as the bland Matt, and is effortlessly outshone by Rainn Wilson, best known as the lodger Arthur in Six Feet Under. My Super Ex-Girlfriend is probably Reitman's best film since Ghostbusters; but given how desperately overrated the 1984 supernatural comedy has always been, that is really not saying so much.

Reviewed on: 04 Aug 2006
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Super-charged break-up leads to powerful problems.
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Director: Ivan Reitman

Writer: Don Payne

Starring: Luke Wilson, Uma Thurman, Anna Faris, Rainn Wilson, Eddie Izzard, Stelio Savante, Mike Iorio, Mark Consuelos, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Anne Florence

Year: 2006

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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