The adjective "high-concept" would seem to imply a movie that was complex in its plotting or deep in its emotional resonance or, possibly, French. At least, when I'd first heard the phrase, that's what I thought. I was fooled by the word "high."
It actually refers to movies whose core idea can generally be summed up in one sentence, usually of the form "X meets Y." Like Ant Bully is Honey, I Shrunk the Kids meets Antz, or the animated version of punching yourself in the head for an hour and a half.
Or, we can use equations: My Super Ex-Girlfriend = Superman + Swingers + Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction.
Luke Wilson plays the Jon Favreau role from Swingers. He is Mike Saunders, an architect who is hapless in love. At the urging of his aptly-named friend Vaughn (Rainn Wilson), he asks out the cutely nerdy brunette Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman), meeting cute by chasing down the guy who snatches her purse. Despite the fact that he ends up cowering in a dumpster, Jenny asks for Mike's number. What he doesn't know is that she is also G-Girl, the local superhero who has all of Superman's arsenal at her disposal plus an impeccable fashion sense.
Their first date is charmingly awkward, as they compete for the Nervous Energy Award, with Jenny's vast array of neuroses (Super-neuroses?) almost overwhelming Mike, especially when she has to step out to stop a fire under the guise of going to the bathroom. The movie, at this point, is succeeding, largely because it is steeped in that concept we discussed above. Mike and Jenny's first attempt at sex is genuinely funny and, importantly, well-timed.
The movie is directed by Ivan Reitman, who showed with Ghostbusters that he could mix comedy with science fiction. The problem is, as the plot of My Super Ex-Girlfriend wends on, the movie falls apart, mostly because it leaves the realm of the core concept. Generally, whenever the movie stops asking the question "What would it be like if that nutty ex of yours had superpowers?" it becomes far less interesting.
So, we get to meet the nemesis: G-Girl's is Dr. Bedlam (the perennially misused Eddie Izzard. Oh, Eddie, I know you love movies, but please, please pick a good role besides the one in The Cat's Meow).
As with all good comic book foils, Dr. Bedlam and G-Girl have a past. Now, he has found a way to take away her powers, and in Mike finds a way to get close enough to her to deploy his . . . rock. It's completely unlike kryptonite, I promise. It's brown.
Once Mike decides that Jenny has the trifecta of bad girlfriend traits ("needy, jealous, and controlling") and dumps her, he has to contend with the fact that she's almost psychotically clingy and has the ability to punch holes into his apartment ceiling on a whim.
And once she catches Mike, after the break-up, with the blank slate Hannah (Anna Faris), well, there's a lot of creativity super-powered stalkers can put into their craziness. Mostly, though, it made me think about how much architects make, if Mike can afford to redecorate his New York City condo after G-Girl does her damage.
As funny as the movie is at times, the plot is pretty predictable. Rainn Wilson, playing essentially a sex-obsessed version of his Dwight from The Office, has nowhere to go with his role. The timing of his lines is supposed to be incongruously humorous but ends up being merely clunky.
Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson do well with their roles, especially since Wilson gets to have fun with the gender roles in the relationship and manages to do so without insulting the female gender or pretending he's less of a man for not being a superhero. Thurman is intelligently sexy (both as the mousy Jenny Jones and bold G-Girl) and wildly absurd once spurned.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend has its moments and the air-conditioned theater is certainly better than boiling in the humid soup that is Washington DC's summer climate. But it could definitely gel better and quite possibly would have worked as series of shorts about G-Girl's and Mike's relationship rather than a full-length movie.