Even with a face contorted with rage and vengeance and a voice echoing through the streets of New York as well as the theater, it’s difficult not to like Uma Thurman as the needy, controlling and manipulative Jenny Johnson/G-girl. The odd sensation of not disliking someone that, well, dislikable seems to stem from the movie’s greatest asset: its understanding that evil can be a misguided outlet of the chronically insecure.
As she tells her story to Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson) – our good-natured protagonist with the requisite New York apartment, reluctance to believe beautiful women might dig him and sex-obsessed, super-vocal best friend – we are introduced to a Jenny Johnson who only wants to be liked and accepted. An outcast in high school, Jenny and her best friend, a schoolmate named Barry, are fooling around in a car when Jenny hears something. Rushing to the site, Jenny and Barry discover a meteor that explodes violently when Jenny touches it, thereafter imparting her with the super powers that turn her into G-girl, an indestructible protector of Gotham and savior to the seriously put-out.
In her story, Jenny becomes more confident at school, and blossoms with her new-found poise. She claims that she and her friend Barry simply grew apart. What we see, however, is a best friend left behind to fend for himself, which explains why in adulthood, Barry has become Professor Bedlam, G-girl’s arch-nemesis played by Eddie Izzard. The catch is that G-girl’s saving grace in high school has become her burden in the real world – her super power secret seems to have kept her from getting truly close to anyone and when she finds Saunders, she’s so hungry for human affection and acceptance that she fumbles and foils her way through a whirlwind relationship that quickly sours as Saunders realizes he can’t handle her neediness and that he is, in fact, in love with a coworker. The main plot of the movie takes us through Saunders’ relationship and breakup with G-girl.
So now you see the problem. We have a needy, whining, guilt-tripping girlfriend with a rage problem, and a weasel-ly, conniving evildoer for a nemesis, and we can’t help but try to collect our melting hearts while wishing both of them the best. (The best, in the form of a “happily-ever-after-ending,” does come, by the way.) Add to this pair our “everyman” Saunders, a role custom-made for likeability and played very well by Luke Wilson, and the raunchy best friend who dishes out bad advice aplenty with comic irreverence, played by Rainn Wilson of television’s The Office fame, and we have a movie with characters you like being allowed to like (despite their imperfections).
Parents should know that although the film is sweet and somewhat cheesy, it contains very adult-targeted sexual references and humor, including brief scenes with implied sex but little nudity, as well as direct references to masturbation and oral sex. The characters have sex without knowing each other well or establishing a caring relationship. Crude language is used abundantly and mostly for comic effect, but includes Thurman’s character referring to another woman as a “slut.” There is some action-style and comic violence, most in the form of Jenny/G-girl attempting to exact revenge on Saunders, including throwing a thrashing, gnawing shark through the window at him and targeting her laser eyes on his pet goldfish.
Families who see this movie should talk about the effects of alienation at school and changes in close relationships. They should also talk about Jenny’s actions as they discuss revenge and jealously, and appropriate ways for addressing insecurities. Effective communication and honesty in relationships are also relevant, and families might explore how Saunders and G-girl could have better handled their breakup.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The 40 Year Old Virgin, which has similar adult-oriented humor and the same “everyman with the raunchy friends” feel, and Office Space.
Thanks to guest critic AB.