Dating Trips

Washington City Paper | July 28, 2006
I date, therefore I am. Well, not me personally. I don’t date and am not sure I ever have—at least not with the intensity of today’s prime dating demographic, which, if media are to be believed, seems to think of nothing else. Contemporary courtship is, as someone once said, more popular than Jesus. It’s yielded a raft of “reality” shows in which dating is depicted as a cross between arranged marriage and big-ticket prostitution, a library of how-to and how-not-to books, a phalanx of snarky advice columnists, and a huge clip file of alarmist stories by anxious elders. A new Washington Post Magazine feature is called “Date Lab,” a name that suggests PETA should raid the place and rescue some abused animals. I’ve even heard that there’s an alternative weekly somewhere that has a dating blog.

The desperation with which today’s daters seek their goals—an ideal balance of hot sex, true love, and the mutually advantageous union, all appointed with premium-brand accessories—certainly lends itself to satire. But satire requires a point of view, consistency of tone, and unlikable characters, all of which are inimical to today’s Hollywood product. So it’s no surprise that the latest dating comedies wander and waver and ultimately can’t pull the trigger on their dating monsters: the pathologically possessive former lover of My Super Ex-Girlfriend and the philandering user of John Tucker Must Die. If Scoop, a different kind of dating comedy, is a little harsher on its characters, it’s only because its director is an old-timer who’s still faithful to venerable genre rules.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend turns on a couple of riffs that aren’t especially fresh but are potentially amusing: The title character is both a vision of female neediness that might make Casanova think twice and a distaff Clark Kent who uses brown hair and glasses to hide her identity as crime-fighting blond superheroine G-Girl. (What does the name G-Girl denote? That scripter Don Payne didn’t try very hard.) Moderately neurotic architectural project manager Matt (Luke Wilson) approaches seemingly prim Jenny (Uma Thurman) on the New York subway; she’s icy toward him until he rushes to retrieve her handbag from a purse-snatcher. Way too soon, they’re an item, which attracts the attention of Professor Bedlam (Eddie Izzard), G-Girl’s archenemy, who secretly nurses a longtime crush on her.

Matt quickly tires of Jenny’s hysterical, if not entirely unjustified, jealousy of his co-worker Hannah (Anna Faris) and breaks off the relationship—although not before Jenny reveals her secret identity. What follows is a bout of superpowered stalking and reprisal that involves a lot of fish: Jenny tries to fry Matt’s goldfish with her heat vision and later hurls a shark into the apartment where Matt and Hannah are making out. But it’s easy to see how all this can be resolved, complete with a love interest for Matt’s piggish best friend and sex-wars adviser Vaughn (Rainn Wilson)—although you’ll have to stay past the crummy animated final credits to see how that works out.

Opening with the requisite clichéd aerial shots of the Manhattan skyline, director Ivan (Ghostbusters) Reitman proceeds through the film without breaking a sweat. He seems unconcerned that the Wanda Sykes cameo is even more extraneous here than it was in last week’s Clerks II, that Payne’s script flops from incident to incident with little narrative logic, that the title character barely has a character at all, or that all the personalities don’t grow naturally but simply go where marketing logic requires—which means the most bitter antagonists become friendly again by the final scene. Like most contemporary Hollywood comedies, this one includes a lot of pop-rock and hip-hop numbers, but Reitman uses them so awkwardly that they just seem like product placement; often he introduces a song just before a scene ends, so that a sparkling riff leads to...nowhere. But then that’s sort of fitting, since that’s just where My Super Ex-Girlfriend goes.

Uma Thurman actually gets to be unpleasant in My Super Ex-Girlfriend, if only for about a half-hour. That’s a lot more mean-girlism than is allotted the Barbie and Ken dolls of John Tucker Must Die, another dating revenge saga. The trailer suggests that this movie will be pointed, if crass, but it’s mostly kind of sweet—and quite bland. The principal problem is that Jeff Lowell’s screenplay goes around in circles, playing sundry variations on the same incident. The movie is like a half-dozen episodes of a predictable teen sitcom condensed into a 90-minute movie.

Washington City Paper

In a city where a great deal of attention is focused on national affairs, Washington City Paper maintains a relentless emphasis on local Washington. City Paper serves as the definitive local guide to cultural and civic life in the District...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 1400 I St. NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005
  • Phone: (202) 332-2100