Why is a movie with Uma Thurman fighting New York City crime in heels and a beret not bigger fun? Oh, that's right: Because she's crazy. We can tell because when ``My Super Ex-Girlfriend" runs out of fresh ideas about how to make its heroine look nuts, it has her act like some of the psychos who terrorized Michael Douglas.
That kitchen knife she's holding might as well be the ice pick Sharon Stone wielded to great camp effect in ``Basic Instinct." And when her breakup gets particularly rough, Thurman's cape of blond hair turns inexplicably into Glenn Close's ``Fatal Attraction" frizz. She even goes Close one better. Instead of boiling a bunny, her superhero, G-Girl, just throws a live shark into her ex's apartment.
Luke Wilson plays the ex, Matt Saunders. And he's utterly relatable, going from lust to loathing. He first meets Jenny Johnson (Thurman) on the train. Her purse is nabbed, and rather unheroically, he gets it back. She's charmed and agrees to go out with him. On their date, she's a geeky neurotic, and the movie tries turning that into something most men would find tough to resist coming from Thurman. ``I think I'm good at sex," she says. ``You decide." As it turns out, she's too good: The bed rocks with seismic force. This is the super freak Rick James warned us about.
But things between the two go sour fast. In Matt's words, Jenny is needy, possessive, and jealous. If Matt tells anyone she's G-Girl, she promises she'll do something unprintable to him with a chainsaw. (Why are there no other exes for Matt's commiseration?) She's openly hostile to the co-worker (Anna Faris) he's been in a mutual flirtation with. Eventually, he breaks it off, and she goes bananas.
When Matt agrees to help G-Girl's suave archenemy, Professor Bedlam (Eddie Izzard), steal her powers, the film becomes an all-too-transparent tale of misogyny in the movies. Did I mention there's a supercatfight? And that Wanda Sykes, as Matt's boss, is relentlessly and unfunnily looking to charge him with sexual harassment?
Perhaps I protest too much. ``My Super Ex-Girlfriend" is all in the spirit of a good time. And the veteran comedy producer and director Ivan Reitman even ends his truly-terrible-movie streak. (``Junior." ``Father's Day." ``Evolution." Remember those?) He keeps things light, even though they go on for too long.
But made from a script by Don Payne, an accomplished ``Simpsons" writer, the movie is a dude's one-way fantasy tinged with an element of fear. It's unfortunate that the premise falls so comfortably along trite gender lines: Men are piggish (particularly Rainn Wilson, as Matt's lewd work buddy) and powerful women are strident loons. Even the feminist sculptures of Kiki Smith, which are on display in the art gallery where G-Girl's alter ego works, are mocked.
Much of the gags, though, are aimed at Thurman, who proves a game comedian, mugging and shrieking her way through the part. Admittedly, there is something appealing about the duality of a strong girl with a deep, dark, insecure side, and Thurman brings out the contradictions. But having killed Bill with such ferocity and intense physical wit, it's depressing to watch her cut down for our amusement.
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.