What happens when you take "Ghost Dad," remove Bill Cosby and inject Reese Witherspoon? You get "Just Like Heaven," a fluffy little romantic comedy that attempts little to be original but still manages to be mildly entertaining.
Few of you probably remember "Ghost Dad," the family comedy about a dad who dies but for some reason people are still able to see him when the lights are off. He also has a habit of falling through carpet. In reality, the movies are not very similar, except they end exactly the same... oops, spoiler!
"Just Like Heaven" stars Mark Ruffalo as a lonely and depressed young man who moves into a vacant yet furnished San Fransisco home, only to find there is someone else living there - the ghost of a recently-deceased doctor (Witherspoon). He tries his best to get rid of her, but then realizes he sort of likes her, and then discovers that she is actually alive but in a coma... and you can guess what happens from there.
There isn't anything remarkable about the film, and I can't say I remember a single thing from the movie having watched it a week before. Obviously there are elements that don't fit into your normal romantic comedy, but despite starring a ghost and having moments with Napoleon Dynamite (by the way, Jon Heder does not fit in this film at all), it never veers very far, either.
Still, "Just Like Heaven" is an enjoyable flick if you go in not expecting too much. The performances are good, especially Witherspoon who plays a ghost quite well (and no I'm not saying that just because she won an Oscar and now, because she won an Oscar, critics are seemingly obligated to give actors rave reviews even if they are in not-so-good movies just for the sake that they are Oscar-winners). Again, Heder is wasted in a small and rather stupid role, but Ruffalo is a pretty good choice as the romantic lead. Nevertheless, I still feel Ruffalo is better suited for other genres.
The screenplay is just good enough that it bounces along from scene to scene without getting boring while at the same time avoiding anything daring enough that might stand out as a glaring flaw. All in all, the movie plays it safe and succeeds because it does so wisely; director Mark Waters and his screenwriters knew what kind of story they had and never tried to elevate it to anything more.
If you like Reese Witherspoon and you like romantic comedies, you can do worse than "Just Like Heaven." If you never see this little film there will be no tears shed, but in a year of awful movies this one at least remains above the fold.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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