Ryan Reynolds is a B-grade actor. It is not that he is not capable of more, but the fact is that the movies where he succeeds the best are B-movies. Hell, his claim-to-fame is "Van Wilder," which was pretty God-awful for the most part. "Waiting..." was good, but it's not like that movie was some intellectual haven of comedy. And what else has he done? A lame, serious turn in that horrible "Amityville Horror" remake? An annoying fish-out-of-water in "Blade: Trinity?" Why is everyone expecting so much from him?
In fact, I like Ryan Reynolds. I think he's funny (and therefore he IS funny). But while reading reviews for "Just Friends," critics kept pointing out that he should transcend the genre he's so good at and obtain the potential they all see in him. Why not just let him do what he wants to do, and that is make funny, goofy comedies?
"Just Friends" is just that, a funny, goofy comedy. It's neither especially memorable nor original, except that it was one of the most surprising films of 2005. I was expecting this movie to be absolutely terrible, because it looked absolutely terrible. Ryan Reynolds starts off in a fat suit, gets good-looking, and still has trouble getting the girl of his dreams. Wow, how amazing of screenwriter Adam 'Tex' Davis to think of such a concept. Nonetheless, "Just Friends" is a good movie, which is quite extraordinary since director Roger Kumble's last two films were the direct-to-video "Cruel Intentions 2" and the absolutely dreadful "The Sweetest Thing."
The movie stars Reynolds as Chris, a big-time music producer who goes from woman to woman without ever successfully finding someone he wants to settle down with. Sadly, he didn't use to be this way. He used to be best friends and in love with the most beautiful girl in school, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), but he also used to be fat and never really thought he had a chance. Now that he's home for Christmas for the first time in years, he thinks he has another chance - unfortunately, his plan to "wow" her by being a jerk and throwing money around doesn't seem to work, and every time he tries to be himself he does something stupid to ruin things. Throw in a psychotic ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris) who is by all means a Britney Spears rip-off, and a cunning "nice guy" (Chris Klein) looking to get into Jamie's pants, and you have one fun-filled winter.
Again, there is nothing especially unique about "Just Friends," but everyone involved seems to know it, accept it and just have fun with it. Reynolds provides his usual deadpan humor to great resolve, and Smart is good as always. Faris, of whom I've never been a very big fan, continues to etch away at my distaste of her, as she turns in a marvelously funny and horrid (in a good way) performance as a sleazy pop star. She did the same thing in "Lost in Translation," but never took it to this level. Klein is also pretty good, though more could have been done with his character.
"Just Friends" is laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end, and manages to avoid the usual pitfall of romantic comedies like these where they start off funny and fall into normal "win the girl" mode at the end. The comedy really doesn't let up at all, even after Reynolds resolves to win the girl.
For anyone who likes slapstick comedy, "Just Friends" is probably one of the best in recent years. On top of that, aside from "Amityville Horror," 2005 was a good year for Ryan Reynolds - both "Waiting" and "Just Friends" exceeded expectations and proved to be some of the funniest movies of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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