Hollywood seems to have rediscovered its love for the Christmas movie. Inrecent years we’ve had Elf, Bad Santa, Christmas with the Kranks and ThePolar Express amongst others. This year those ‘clever’ bigwigs have tried tomeld the Christmas movie with the twentysomething broad comedy typified bymovies such as There’s Something About Mary, and have come up with JustFriends.
Chris (Ryan Reynolds) was an overweight teenager at school in love withhis best friend Jamie (Amy Smart). After sharing his feelings one night heis rejected and told that he is loved… like a brother. Cut to 10 years laterand Chris is a new man. Attractive, slim, successful and popular with theopposite sex, his high school self is a distant memory. When Chris is giventhe task of babysitting Samantha (Anna Faris), a self-absorbed pop star, aseries of accidents leads them back to his home town. Reuniting with Jamie,Chris tries to see if he can escape from the dreaded friend zone.
Just Friends plays with some interesting ideas. The reformed geek goingback home for the first time in ten years with still a bit of geekiness leftunderneath the new image. The troublesome division between lovers andfriends. But a film which opens with Ryan Reynolds in a fat-suit singingalong to All-4-One‘s I Swear ain’t aiming for anything overly thoughtful.
In what has been a successful year for comedy with the above-par WeddingCrashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin doing big business, Just Friends fallsshort of being a memorable addition to the genre. It’s main problem isthat it relies too much on depressingly broad comedy. Not a scene goes bywithout some sort of slapstick violence, and it gets tired well before the end.Furthermore there’s a mean streak which emanates in some scenes – but it is mostly heldback for the sickening sentimentality to seep through to the finale.
Reynolds is an acquired taste. Hedoes have a few good scenes when he’s channeling his inner geek but mostlyhis idea of comedy relies on over expressions. Amy Smart is painfullybland and both are easily outdone by the wonderful Anna Faris. Constantlythreatening to break out and become a talented comic lead, Faris seems to behappy enough to scene steal whenever she can. In Lost In Translation rumourssuggested her dumb actress role was based on Cameron Diaz, while her dumb popstar role in this is rumored to be an Ashlee Simpson homage. Regardless ofher target, she eats up the scenery with ease and makes you wish the film wasbased solely around her.
The merits are of setting this film atChristmas, other than to increase its potential audience, are unclear. Just Friends isn’t the worst comedy we’ve seen recently. Infact it does have enough hints at something better to prevent it from beinga complete write-off. It just would be nice to see a comedy where the humourdoesn’t predominantly rely upon someone falling over. Repeatedly.