Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart in Just Friends (2005)


(director: Roger Kumble; screenwriter: Adam ‘Tex’ Davis; cinematographer: Anthony B. Richmond; editor: Jeff Freeman; music: Jeff Cardoni/Machine Head; cast: Ryan Reynolds (Chris Brander), Anna Faris (Samantha James), Chris Klein (Dusty), Amie Smart (Jamie Palamino), Christopher Marquette (Michael Branden), Julie Hagerty (Chris’ Mom, Carol), Stephen Root (The Boss), Fred Ewanuick (Clark), Amy Matysio (Darla), Barry Flatman (Mr. Palamino); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Chris Bender/JC Spink/William Vince/Bill Johnson/Michael Ohoven; New Line Cinema; 2005)

“Just bad.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A mean-spirited and vulgar romantic comedy date flick that is just bad. The jokes are aimed at one’s physical characteristics and the witless humor is of the low-brow sitcom kind. Its highlight yuk scene is the totaling of an outdoor house Christmas display and the lampooning of a dim-witted self-absorbed pop star who could be taken for a host of limited starlets such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton or Ashlee Simpson. Director Roger Kumble (“Cruel Intentions”/”The Sweetest Thing”) and writer Adam ‘Tex’ Davis (his debut) try to spoof a bunch of jerky characters, but they are immune from being spoofed because they are already satires.

Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) was a chubby doofus-looking nerd in high school back in the affluent suburbs of New Jersey, who had a crush on the popular bubbly blonde cheerleader Jamie Palamino (Amie Smart). But they can never get over being just friends, something he alone seems to want to move past to have a romantic connection. He goes to a private house party given by friends Clark and Darla to celebrate their graduation from high school in 1995. There he meets Jamie, and once again fails to tell her that he wants to be more than friends. Instead he gets humiliated when the school bully reads aloud to all the guests what he wrote privately for Jamie about his true feelings. Chris flees to L.A., where he becomes a hotshot music executive and loses weight to become a hunk (casting off his prop “fat suit”). He also becomes a woman-hating ladies man, who builds a rep dating celebs like pop bubble-gum queen Samantha (Anna Faris). Ten years after his graduation-night humiliation he returns to his old Jersey haunts with ex-girlfriend Samantha in tow. Chris’s smarmy boss (Stephen Root) gives him the assignment of getting the hot star Samantha inked to sign with their record label and orders him to baby-sit her.

Back in his hometown digs Chris can’t resist seeing Jamie again, who is a barmaid studying to be a teacher and is still unattached and living in her parents’ house. Chris has now become a wealthy and dreamy looking guy, but his personality is of a superficial Hollywood type who lacks sensitivity. Jaime instead falls for Dusty (Chris Klein), who back in high school was an acne-covered stuttering lame guitar playing folk singer. He also had a crush on her, but she never even let him become friends. The reinvented Chris is now clear-complexioned, a good singer and no longer stutters, and the handsome aspiring singer and ambulance driver convinces Jamie that he’s a sensitive guy.

The film relies on Reynold’s fat suit to get laughs. The inane story doesn’t amount to beans, as we are left wondering if Chris will win his love’s heart. It all moves in familiar movie clichés: boy loves girl, girl doesn’t love boy, but when another boy falls for his dream girl, the heartbroken boy must change and then the girl must choose which one will be her man.

The belabored storyline, obnoxious and unfulfilling characters, dumb jokes and pointless life lessons were too idiotic to mean much, even as the poorly written screenplay awkwardly tried to look as if it had something smart to say by pointing out that despite Chris’s high roller status and exterior changes for the better he’s still conflicted with his old insecurities and clumsiness.


REVIEWED ON 11/26/2005 GRADE: C-