JUST LIKE HEAVEN (Mark Waters, 2005)
Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo form a cosmic connection in JUST LIKE HEAVEN. As Elizabeth Masterson, Witherspoon plays a hardworking doctor who can’t find time for anything else, least of all a relationship. On the way to her sister’s house, Elizabeth’s car meets with a semi truck, an accident that leaves her in a coma. Ruffalo’s David Abbott is still deep in mourning for his deceased wife when he sublets Elizabeth’s apartment. Somehow Elizabeth’s soul separates from her body and continues to inhabit her residence, which convinces David that he may have finally cracked.
JUST LIKE HEAVEN’S time-tested and timeworn formula may not require much brain exertion, but it provides celestial stars for the thinking man and woman in the forms of Witherspoon and Ruffalo. Witherspoon projects intelligence even when playing the ditziest of characters. Here she’s quite funny coping with the collision of Elizabeth’s professional practicality and utter befuddlement in personal matters. Seeing her blithe spirit revive the rumpled, brooding David is a primary source of the film’s charms. Ruffalo pulls several laughs reacting to someone no one else can see, particularly when Witherspoon talks him through an emergency surgery. Witherspoon and Ruffalo underplay the broad comedy and their characters’ attraction, which is why their chemistry ultimately proves to be so satisfying.
In addition to the boundless appeal of its stars, JUST LIKE HEAVEN brings in a scene-stealing supporting character and a director with sharp comic timing. Jon Heder follows up his breakthrough NAPOLEON DYNAMITE role with a funny turn as an occult bookstore employee who can commune with spirits. On the heels of the FREAKY FRIDAY remake and MEAN GIRLS, director Mark Waters shows his ability to deliver good mainstream comedies, a talent less common than you might think.