You: "Wait a minute! Thornhill went to see "Just Friends", that movie with Ryan Reynolds ("Blade: Trinity", "Waiting", "National Lampoon's Van Wilder") in the fat suit? I don't believe it".
Me: Well, yes. It was a choice between "Just Friends" or the remake "Yours, Mine and Ours" starring Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo. Now, the only reason anyone remade "Yours", based on a 1968 film starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, is because of the success of Steve Martin's "Cheaper By the Dozen" last year. Let's face it, the only reason anyone even remembers the 1968 film is because Lucy starred in it. I tried to watch it recently, and it was just a boring, boring film. It picks up a little when Lucy does a little of her patented physical comedy, but this doesn't happen until fifty (yes, fifty) minutes into the film. So, it was a choice between a new comedy that could possibly offer a few laughs and a remake of a bad film meant to capitalize on the success of another bad film? Hmmmmm!
Frankly, I was surprised by how much I laughed. Not everyone who watches this film will probably enjoy it, but the first hour of the 90 minute film contains a lot of funny jokes.
Chris (Ryan Reynolds) and Jamie (Amy Smart) are high school best friends, cheerleaders and devoted to each other. Chris is also very overweight. On the night of their graduation, Chris hopes that their relationship will go the extra step and they will become boyfriend and girlfriend. As Jamie unintentionally does things to turn him on, a parade of other suitors barge in, interrupting Chris' attempts to express his feelings to her. Embarrassed, Chris runs away from the party. Ten years later, Chris has moved to LA, landed a job in the music industry and apparently excercised quite a bit, because he is now a handsome young man, a handsome, egotistical young ladies man. His boss (Stephen Root) tells him to babysit Samantha James (Anna Faris), the newest Ashlee Simpson/ Paris Hilton wannabee, and get her to sign with their company. Samantha is overjoyed to see Chris, a former boyfriend, and they set off to Paris for the holidays. A problem with the private jet, forces them to land in his hometown of Trenton, New Jersey and he meets Jamie again.
The poster, which features Reynolds in his fat suit huddled with Amy Smart, might make you might think, as I did, that the film would predominately feature fat jokes in every guise and form. Thankfully, this is only a small portion of the film. Quickly, we flash forward ten years and meet Chris, circa 2005. Sweet, caring Chris has transformed himself into the complete opposite of his former self and this creates a lot of the comedy when he returns home for a short visit.
This isn't to say that the beginning is without laughs. Reynolds does a good job of capturing the two sides of Chris. As fat Chris, Reynolds makes him a charming, shy guy devoted to his friends. He just has difficulty expressing his true feelings to Jamie. He stands in front of his mirror, lip syncing to All-4-One, preparing himself for Jamie's high school graduation party. He writes his feelings in her yearbook and wants to have a few moments alone, for her to read it. After a few moments, with constant interruptions, Chris gets a chance to read it to her, but realizes that he has the wrong book. This scene is funny and sets a raucous tone for the rest of the film.
For about an hour, or so, the film lives up to this promise and is more funny than you could expect. Anna Faris, as Samantha James, is a real standout. A hyper-stylized charicature of Ashlee Simpson (the bad singing) and Paris Hilton (the dumb blond), Faris is very funny. She has both characters down to a tee and watching these two personalities blend into one is very funny and even a little scary. What if such a person did exist? It isn't a very far stretch of the imagination. She steals pretty much every scene she appears in. Chris asks his younger brother, Mike, to watch Samantha, which he readily agrees to, because he is more than a little infatuated with the `singer'.
When the story focuses of present day Chris, Reynolds seems to have fun portraying different aspects of Chris' character, in an attempt to win Jamie back. First, he tries the new Chris out on his former high school chum. Unfortunately, the new Chris is the type of man who uses women and then dumps them, exactly the type of guy Jamie has consistently been associated with, and it doesn't work. Then Chris tries a reincarnation of his former self, who he affectionately refers to as the "Biggest Puss_" in the world. It is fun to watch these different characters surface and his attitudes change.
The last portion of the film grinds to a halt as Chris and Jamie try to work out the problems in their relationship. Just as Chris thinks he has won Jamie, he starts a fight with her and she leaves in a huff. He flies back to Los Angeles, than flies back to Trenton, and back and forth, and this and that, and why can't we do this and why can't we do that. This part of the film begins to resemble an extended episode of "Dr. Phil" and really drags the rest of the film down.
The film's technical merits are small. Director Roger Kumble ("Cruel Intentions") keeps all of the action closed in. Everything takes place in interiors or small areas outdoors. I think this was an effort to hide the fact that the film was shot in Canada, when it is supposed to take place in New Jersey. The more confined and focused the shot, the less you have to worry about seeing something that doesn't fit.
Also, the film has a slightly grainy, darker look all of which makes me believe that the film was made for a low budget. It is still a funny film, but how great it would have been to have a technically well-made, funny film. Instead, it just looks cheap.
"Just Friends" has some good laughs, certainly more than I expected. You should certainly give it a try at a bargain matinee or rent the DVD.