by ED SYMKUS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & ometimes just a film's title reveals its gist. Take, for instance, the clich & eacute; that adorns this one. The filmmakers should have stayed with what was reportedly the original title: How I Met My New Boyfriend's Dead Fianc & eacute;e, or, Ghost Bitch. At least then we all might have enjoyed a chuckle. As it stands, however, the title is forgettable, and so's the movie.
If you happen to be a fan of Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66, you're going to be annoyed from the first frame, as the opening credits are accompanied by a hip-hop mash-up of the infectious "Mas Que Nada," one of the best Spanish-language pop tunes to come out of the '60s. What they've done to it is heresy!
We're soon introduced to the woman who, after her early death here, would've been the Ghost Bitch character. Kate (Eva Longoria Parker) is the kind of person who makes wedding planners want to get out of the business. On her intended nuptial day, she's a horror to be near -- ordering everyone around, determined to make it all perfect. Fortunately, she's killed in an accident involving a carved ice angel.
A year goes by, and her intended husband, Henry (Paul Rudd), is still shaken, still not ready to start dating, still unaware that he's the luckiest veterinarian in L.A. for getting out of this marriage. He's pestered by his well-meaning sister Chloe (Lindsay Sloane) into going to a psychic named Ashley (Lake Bell), purportedly to contact Kate and make sure everything is OK.
Ashley, at first, seems to be in the game just to bilk customers, or at least make them think she's in contact with the spirit world, telling them only that she has had "some success." But when nothing works, Chloe secretly slips Kate's diary to Ashley so she can "know" everything about her and come off as a real psychic. In the time-tested manner of romantic comedy, Ashley's all for the plan.
Wouldn't you know it? Shortly after Henry takes part in a second reading -- and Ashley gets a few things about Kate right on the nose -- the ghost of Kate shows up. Only Ashley can see her. (I guess that means psychics are for real.) In a fit of mistaken jealousy, Kate tells Ashley to stay away from her Henry.
Or is she mistaken? There are hints that something could be going on between amorous Ashley and lonely Henry.
This turns into a forced comedy about the psychic waging battle with the ghost for the affections of the unwitting former fianc & eacute; and possible future boyfriend. There are some pretty good visual effects that portray Kate's ghostly powers, but they're few, as are any engaging story ideas. Several scenes are merely filler. To be fair, a couple of funny sequences do work -- for example, one with a ghost-assisted talking parrot comes to mind.
Rudd is decent here, especially when he's allowed to add his naturally dry sense of humor to his character. But Bell doesn't rise above a vanilla performance, and Longoria has been far livelier as a living person on Desperate Housewives.
The proof of just how crowd-pleasing this film is going to be rests on a statement I heard at a preview screening, where critics were invited along with a crowd who won free tickets in a radio station contest. When it ended, a young woman sitting behind me turned to her friend and said, "It was cute, but it wasn't anything I'd pay to see."