Each winter, as we enter the homestretch of a given year, Hollywood begins limiting itself to two kinds of holiday releases: “films”--austere art that usually (though not always) self-consciously market themselves as making some kind of social statement and “movies”--average Joe friendly fare that try to provide a bit of spectacle and/or fun in the midst of the Thanksgiving/Christmas season chaos.
As the studios push their would-be Oscar champions for all they’re worth, most “serious” critics, immersed in judging the former category, can tend to be a bit hard on the latter.
Thank goodness I’m not a serious critic.
That’s why I’m able to tell you that Just Friends is the movie equivalent of buttered popcorn--salty, crackling, and not terribly nutritious, but still a lot of fun to feast on.
Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is BFF (that’s Best Friends Forever for those who didn’t go to high school in the 80s or 90s) with Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), the beautiful blonde cheerleader next door. Of course, like every guy who’s BFF with a girl, Chris would like to be more--he’d like to be her TLA (True Love Always).
A hopeless, overweight loser, the poor guy just can’t see that he doesn’t stand a chance. That is until a heartless jock gets a hold of a love note Chris meant for Jamie and bears Chris’ soul to the entire senior class. Rejection is then heaped upon humiliation as Jamie tells her chubby chum, “I love you too…like a brother.”
Crushed, Chris flees Jamie and his home state of New Jersey and vows to remake himself in the capital of remakes--Los Angeles. Fast forward ten years, and Chris is now a successful, slim record executive on his way to Paris to party with one of pop music’s hottest new stars, Samantha James (Anna Faris) on his arm. There’s one catch to Chris’ fabulous new life though: Samantha is a psychotic banshee. So when their plane has to make an emergency landing near his old stomping ground, Chris uses the opportunity to escape his crazy companion and to track Jamie down and see if he can’t finally move out of “the friend zone.”
During its short 88-minute running time, Just Friends teeters between biting humor and bad taste. For the most part it comes down on the side of biting.
Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All
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