My Super Ex-Girlfriend
One of my favorite film scenes comes in M. Night Shyamalan's film Unbreakable, when Samuel L. Jackson—playing an eccentric collector of comic books—explains to our unwitting hero, Bruce Willis, the importance of the superhero mythology as a mirror for the human condition. According to ol' Sam, there's more to a comic book than just grown men wearing tights and punching each others' lights out; superhero stories are underappreciated art forms, tall tales in which the truth is exaggerated but still reflected in a powerful way. His theory seems quite credible—indeed, one need look no further for proof than to Pixar's blockbuster hit The Incredibles, a movie in which superpowers come to represent the different gifts of each character, turning a super-parody into a super-insightful story about families and the different roles that each family member plays.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend is the latest film to take the superhero myth and transport it into mundane, everyday life—and, when compared to a movie like The Incredibles, it might seem like something of a missed opportunity, as it doesn't quite milk its rich material for insights into the human condition. In other words, the tropes and trappings of a superhero story are here, but they never become symbolic or representative of anything particularly profound. Rather, they're here just to fuel the film's comedy and romance. And that's just fine, for while it may not be anything especially thought-provoking, Super Ex happens to be one of those extremely rare romantic comedies that is, in fact, both romantic and comedic—not to mention surprising and altogether likeable.
If you've seen the trailers—heck, even if you just know the film's title—you can surmise the basic plot. A regular Joe, Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson) meets a woman who's secretly a superhero, Jenny Johnson, a.k.a. G-Girl (Uma Thurman). The two of them go out a few times, and then Matt, sensing that it isn't going to work out, tries as gently as he can to break up with her. Trouble is, Jenny is, in Matt's words, "an emotional basket case"—she's very needy, very clingy, and, much to Matt's chagrin, very superpower-ful. Oh, and she's a little angry at him.
What the trailers don't show you, though, is that the movie spends a surprising amount of time focusing on their initial meeting and courtship—the breakup doesn't come until close to an hour into the film—and it works surprisingly well. Wilson and Thurman are both fine comedic actors, and they've both got extremely likable onscreen personas. Best of all, they've got tremendous chemistry together. We root for their relationship to work out, even though we know that, unless the title is one monster of a misnomer, things can only end badly.
When things finally do come to a close, the plot becomes a bit more complicated. Jenny doesn't take the breakup well at all. She hurls Matt's car into orbit around the globe. She uses her super-speed to strip all his clothes off him in the middle of a business meeting. She throws a shark through his window. All in all, it's not an amicable split. As for Matt, he begins seeing a co-worker who he has long had a crush on, Hannah (Anna Farris). Plus, he's visited by G-Girl's arch-nemesis, Professor Bedlam (British comedian Eddie Izzard), who has a seemingly foolproof plan to rob G-Girl of her powers.