Just Friends
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Roger Kumble
scr Adam 'Tex' Davis
with Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, Chris Klein, Chris Marquette, Julie Hagerty, Stephen Root, Fred Ewanuick, Amy Matysio, Barry Flatman, Cavan Cunningham, Maria Arcé
release US 23.Nov.05, UK 6.Jan.06
05/US New Line 1h36

A little too friendly: Faris and Reynolds

reynolds smart klein

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Just Friends This wacky rom-com at least has a decent gimmick behind it, examining how difficult it is to escape our own past. And although it's often hilarious, it's far too hyperactive to actually connect with us.

Pudgy, lovelorn Chris (Reynolds) and slutty cheerleader Jamie (Smart) were high school pals until a humiliating experience in 1995 ("The summer of like") drove Chris from New Jersey to Los Angeles. Ten years later he's reinvented himself as a lean record company exec with a string of sexy girlfriends, including the society bimbo Samantha James (Faris), who he's now got to turn into a singing star. When Chris and Samantha are stranded in Jersey, he's determined to show Jamie how cool he is now. But old patterns are harder to break than he expects.

This film is loaded with snappy, cruel comedy and astute observational humour. There are two bracingly original ideas: First is the title theme, that once you get into the "friend zone" it's almost impossible to progress into a romance. And second is the way we fall into old roles when we go home, no matter how grown up or different we are in the real world. The clever script actually deals with both of these things in meaningful, amusing ways, which makes it feel fresh, even if at the core it's the exact same rom-com plot as always.

We also have to endure some extremely corny performances, most notably from Reynolds, who simply can't resist pulling faces at the camera. When he calms down, he's a decent actor, but it's not easy to bear his Jim Carrey-lite eye-rolling and pratfalls. Hagerty (as his mother) is also completely over-the-top, so maybe we can see where Chris gets it. On the other hand, Smart is sexy and almost too perfect, Klein is charming and funny, Marquette has moments of genius as Chris' bratty little brother, and Faris steals the show as the outrageously vain and clueless Samantha, a notched-up version of Faris' dim actress in Lost in Translation. As a bit of cinematic fluff, we could of a lot worse.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 25.Nov.05

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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall