- Roger Kumble
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, October 18, 2007
The premise is irresistible: Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds), a chubby, unpopular High School graduate, has decided to declare himself to his best friend, hot and popular Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), but at doing so is ridiculed by the entire class and rejected by the girl of his dreams. As a result, Chris leaves, promising to succeed away from that town of losers. Ten years later, he has done so: now skinny and handsome, he’s a music executive who scores with every girl he puts his eyes on, and lectures his friends on staying away from the dreaded “friend zone”.
But Chris is not exempt from being haunted by his High School years, like we all are, and he still thinks of Jamie. So when a rather implausible accident takes him back from L.A. to New Jersey, he meets his ghosts again, and becomes, in a way, as clumsy as he ever was back in the day.
Admittedly, director Kumble and writer Adam ‘Tex’ Davis go for the slapstick and caricature more often than not, but one can’t deny the heart. Even the key character of singer Samantha James (Anna Faris) surprises a couple of times with sentiment that rings true despite her clear psychosis. I was a victim of the cheap efforts the movie made to make me laugh, but enjoyed the whole thing and stayed interested in the fate of every character. I identified with Chris Brander, too, which helped: pathetic though it may sound, I, too, felt incapable in High School, feel much better now, and become incapacitated even by the thought of those days. Just Friends felt, in that way, like the realization of a nightmare that turns out, as it should, not as bad as it could be.
I wasn’t all for the romance, and didn’t quite root for the Chris and Jamie couple, which is obviously a flaw. However, Chris’ feelings were moving and I totally went for his newly found humanity and the fact that through forgiveness he understood that he was still essentially a romantic and totally willing to love and be loved, unlike the last 10 years he’s spent as a womanizer. And talking about cheesy stuff, I just adored how they mocked The Notebook (2004).
Subplots bring many quirky characters to life, but they’re all enjoyable: at Chris’ household, there’s his mother Carol (Julie Hagerty) and his brother Mike (Chris Marquette); I enjoyed every second with Mike onscreen, he’s a scene-stealer. Then there’s that wacko Samantha James, who goes too far more often than not, but is charmingly played by the fantastic Anna Faris. And last but not least, there’s Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein), the other High School geek who has become a complete charmer and apparently a much better person than Chris; this character surprises a few times and Klein is excellent. As for the leads, both do what they should, and are believable enough, if nothing extraordinary.
Not half bad, if not properly good, Just Friends is good for the laughs, and even for the heart. I’d say, give it a shot.
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