Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Just Friends (2005)

* *

Director: Roger Kumble
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris

Oh, Anna Faris. What won't I watch for you? Please try to be in better movies in the future. Not that Just Friends doesn't have its moments, but objectively speaking it's really not a good movie. However, if all you require from a comedy is someone in a fat suit, a bunch of pratfalls, and a fiery massacre of Christmas decorations, you will not leave Just Friends disappointed.

The film begins with Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit playing Chris Brander, an unpopular guy who is best friends with Jamie (Amy Smart), the most popular girl in school. He's in love with her, but she thinks of him like a brother and only wants to be friends, which becomes the defining event in Chris' life (that should tell you quite a bit about Chris' life). Just Friends is kind of like Nice Guy: The Movie, in that that Chris is under the impression that because he's friends with Jamie that somehow makes her obligated to become romantically involved with him (and, as an aside, that sense of obligation paradoxically negates itself since believing it means that he isn't really her friend after all) and her rejection is seen as an enormous betrayal. A decade later, having lost the weight, moved to LA, and become successful, he's still complaining about how Jamie messed with his head in high school, though as far as I can tell "messing" with him involved hanging out with him as if they were, you know, friends.

Chris hasn't been back to his hometown since high school but through a twist of plot-friendly fate gets stuck there at Christmas with pop star Samantha Jones (Anna Faris). Chris and Samantha used to be involved but since she's crazy it didn't work out, though he continues to feign interest in her in order to secure a deal between her and the company he works for. The scenes involving Samantha are the ones that redeem Just Friends and kind of, almost, make it worth watching. The romantic plot between Chris and Jamie is less worth watching, primarily because Reynolds and Smart have very little chemistry, and also because of Chris' sense of entitlement and subsequent behavior. I mean, if he wants to believe that his weight was the only reason she wasn't interested in him, that's his prerogative, but it doesn't change the fact that he's also kind of a dick.

In the end, Chris more or less realizes the errors he's made with regards to Jamie thanks in no small part to Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein), a character who acts as a mirror to Chris having also been unpopular and in love with Jamie in high school and having since become a player intent on avenging his younger self. The fact that Chris does a bit of a turnaround at the end combined with the fact that Reynolds is a very likeable actor, means that he emerges from all this unscathed. When he's in good movies, Reynolds shines, and when he's in bad movies you can't help but wonder how such a bad movie ended up with such a good lead.

The real star of the show, however, is Faris who can go so far over the top (as she does, frequently, here) while still seeming to be in total control of her performance. The writing for the character is extremely thin, but Faris puts everything into the role and manages to be the most entertaining thing in any given scene, even when she's not physically there, such as during a scene where Chris listens to multiple voice messages she's left for him. Like Reynolds, she always seems to be at the top of her game even when the material isn't really giving her much to work with. Just Friends is a 90 minute wasted opportunity that just shows you why Faris and Reynolds deserve to be in better films.


Candice Frederick said...

i agree--this was quite dumb. though i think ana faris is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overrated.

Alex said...

The only thing that made this movie watchable is its likable cast. Ana Farris was SO dedicated to her role, it was impossible not to appreciate! And you're right about Ryan Reynolds, I think he's great but wonder what he's always doing in crappy movies.

I also really like Chris Marquette and I have no idea why. He was pretty funny as the pervy brother, I seem to recall.