Thursday, December 22, 2005

Just Friends

JUST FRIENDS (Roger Kumble, 2005)

JUST FRIENDS finds Ryan Reynolds' Chris Brander reliving high school insecurities. Chris was an obese teenager who transformed himself into a sleek, hotshot record executive. He wished to be more than friends with Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), but the popular cheerleader remained oblivious to his romantic interests, keeping things strictly platonic.

Ten years after expressing his affection and being embarrassed in front of practically the whole senior class, Chris makes an unplanned return home at Christmas with bratty pop singer Samantha James (Anna Faris) in tow. Although Chris is now a toned and tanned stud, he reverts to the unsure adolescent when he runs into Jamie again.

In films such as NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VAN WILDER and WAITING.., Reynolds has fashioned himself into a more obnoxious, less funny version of Vince Vaughn. JUST FRIENDS affords Reynolds the chance to soften up, and he takes advantage of it. As Chris, Reynolds is funny confronting the image of himself that everyone else still holds but that he discarded long ago.

Faris has shown that she’s willing to do anything for a laugh in the SCARY MOVIEseries, but here she goes for broke and is actually funny. Faris plays her American idol as part toddler, part socialite slut. It’s a broad performance but one that works, especially when she gobbles a tube of toothpaste. Chris Klein adds some laughs as well. His character, Dusty Dinkelman, was part of the uncool crowd in high school—with a name like that, how could he not be—but the intervening years have cleared up his complexion and given him a ruthless ladykiller streak under the guise of a sensitive, guitar-strumming guy.

While the performances hit their marks, JUST FRIENDS lapses into repetitive, mildly amusing scenarios. Ironically, the audience has a relationship with the film like the teen Chris has with Jamie. JUST FRIENDS is sweet and mostly pleasant to pass the time with, like a diverting thing to watch on cable, but there’s little justification to enter into a serious engagement with it, or bother going to a theater to see it.

Grade: C

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