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|Just Like Heaven|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Mark Waters|
scr Peter Tolan, Leslie Dixon
with Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Donal Logue, Jon Heder, Dina Waters, Ben Shenkman, Ivana Milicevic, Rosalind Chao, Ron Canada, Gabrielle Made, Shulie Cowen, Chris Pflueger
release US 16.Sep.05,
05/US DreamWorks 1h35
I ne-e-ed your love: Witherspoon and Ruffalo
Not quite a rom-com, but dangerously close, this trifling love story is thoroughly ridiculous but still surprisingly enjoyable. Full credit to the lively cast, which makes the most of some painfully trite dialog and generates a real spark of chemistry.
Elizabeth (Witherspoon) is a workaholic doctor who has never taken the time to really enjoy her life or find love. Then a car crash stops her. When David (Ruffalo) moves into her empty flat, he meets her spirit, floating around without a clue why he's there. After bickering over who gets the flat now, they decide to cooperate to solve the mystery of her identity, with help from a supernatural bookseller (Heder) and David's goofy pal (Logue). But it's far trickier to find a way to bridge the physical gap between them.
Waters films this efficiently, keeping things bright and energetic, and making sure it looks lovely. Elizabeth's flat is surely the most desirable residence in San Francisco--a drop-dead gorgeous apartment with a spectacular view across the bay. And David doesn't seem to need to work at all to afford it. But then, it's a movie about a ghost, so why quibble? (Speaking of which, Ghost is a clear reference in several scenes.)
Witherspoon delivers another of her effervescent performances and keeps it grounded with moments of introspection and even pain. She really is remarkably adept at making this kind of thinly written character work. Ruffalo is terrific in the dramatic and romantic scenes, but struggles with the slapstick. Fortunately none of it turns into a major set piece, so we can ignore it, along with a few dodgy montage sequences. Heder and Logue are quirky and silly, adding their excellent comic timing exactly where required.
The main problem is the plot itself, which is corny and contrived, and seems to ignore any sense of ghost-movie logic. There's nothing original in the story--it's forgettable, derivative fluff. So it helps hugely that Waters slides nicely back and forth between the film's serious, silly and romantic tones, concluding on a note that's entertaining and very sweet. Yet also paper-thin.
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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