Friday, June 17, 2011

Ryan Reynolds Added Charm to Average "Just Friends"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 133 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Just Friends (2005)
Running time: 96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual content including some dialogue
DIRECTOR: Roger Kumble
WRITER: Adam “Tex” Davis
PRODUCERS: Chris Bender, JC Spink, Michael Ohoven, William Vince, and Bill Johnson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony B. Richmond
EDITOR: Jeff Freeman


Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, Julie Hagerty, Stephen Root, Fred Ewanuick, Amy Matysio, Christopher Marquette and Chris Klein

Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) has it all. He’s a womanizing, L.A. music executive with money and good looks, but Chris is an ex-dork. In the 1990’s, he was a shy, overweight high school student living in New Jersey. The butt of the cool crowd’s (especially the jocks) jokes, he had only one bright spot in his life as a teen, his friendship with Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), a super-popular cheerleader and the hottest girl in school. They were best buds, inseparable except when Jamie had a date with a jock. For years Chris harbored a secret crush on his best friend. Jamie wanted to date her – to be more than friends. In his senior year of 1995, Chris finally got the courage to make his feelings known. However, a surprised Jamie tells Chris that she does love him – but as a brother – the “just friends” speech. Chris storms off and never returns to his Jersey hometown, until now…

Ten years later, Chris has transformed himself, reinventing the shy, fat kid as a smooth talking lady-killer, living large in the music industry. Fate throws him a curveball when his record company boss insists that Chris turn Samantha Jones (Anna Faris), a Paris Hilton like spoiled socialite, diva, and magazine pin-up girl into a singing sensation. It’s bad enough that Chris used to actually date Samantha, but now he has to accompany her to Paris. An accident grounds their plane in New Jersey, so Chris takes the opportunity to visit is overly-excited mother, Carol Brander (Julie Hagerty), and his smart-aleck 18-year old brother, Mike (Christopher Marquette). Visiting high school pals now married couple Clark (Fred Ewanuick) and Darla (Amy Matysio) at a local bar, Chris runs into Jamie for the first time since he left home, and is instantly floored by her, as if 10 years had never passed. Jamie may be interested in a serious relationship with Chris because she still sees the old Chris she loved underneath the big city jive, but another old suitor Dusty Lee (Chris Klein), has also transformed himself and is making a hard push for Jamie’s affections.

There is a lot of Just Friends that is pleasantly mediocre, but this flick has a genuine, up and coming star as its lead, Ryan Reynolds, who brought much needed levity to the dour and second-rate Blade: Trinity. A charmer in the Bill Murray mold by way of Vince Vaughn, Reynolds is an appealing comic actor who can bump a comedy with a lame leg a few paces ahead of the rest of the pack of pedestrian movies. Reynolds wears a fat suit to play Chris Brander as a chubby high school kid, and his talents still shine through the makeup. There is such truth to his performance both physically and emotionally. Reynolds certainly conveys the troubles and conflicts of an outcast teen, making young Chris worthy of our sympathy rather than being some fat kid at whom we can laugh.

Anna Faris (the heroine of the Scary Movie franchise) as Chris Brander’s charge, Samantha Jones, delivers a downright delicious turn that is part parody and equal measures farce. Her performance is also a superb jibe at self-absorbed, wealthy debutantes who insist on sharing their second-rate skills and artistic ambitions with the general public in the form of entertainment for commercial consumption.

While not a great movie, Just Friends is a worthy addition to that sub-genre of high school comedies – the revenge flick, a tale of a high school outcast who gets to throw his adult success in his critics’ faces. But Just Friends isn’t mean. Instead it reaffirms the importance of old, deep-running friendship.

6 of 10

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


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