Just Friends is the first film in recent memory where literally every scene ends with someone sustaining an injury that, if it wasn’t just a movie, would land them in the hospital for weeks, maybe months. The film is loaded with slapstick and a surprisingly mean demeanor, but it’s edgy enough to really bring out those feelings of rejection that many of us guys felt back in high school when trying to net that pretty girl who wanted to be just friends.
Ryan Reynolds is Chris Brander, a lovable, overweight lad who has the hots for his good friend, Jamie Palamino (Smart). She’s the girl who dates all the jocks and jerks, gets treated like garbage, and then comes to you for a shoulder to cry on. As the film opens Chris tells Jamie how he really feels in a message in her yearbook, but the book winds up in the wrong hands and leads to off-the-scale embarrassment.
Ten years later Chris has shed the excess weight and is a hotshot in the music industry in L.A. On top of that, he’s your classic ladies man and has some womanizing tendencies. He’s assigned to rope in Samantha James (Faris) for a record contract, but she’s the epitome of the spoiled pop star with very little actual talent. Through happenstance the two wind up back in Chris’ old east coast town and Chris must not only face up to his feelings with Jamie, but also to an old foe, Dusty (Klein).
Screenwriter Adam “Tex” Davis and Director Roger Kumble keep the sight gags coming in rapid fire fashion, including a pickup hockey game that has to be seen to be believed. Despite the over-abundance of slapstick and hideous injury, Davis does successfully tap into familiar feelings for many guys. The film has a biting feeling of revenge that many will be able to revel in.
Ryan Reynolds is being Ryan Reynolds here, which can essentially be translated to being Van Wilder. However, this may just be his most in-depth role. Fragile and emotional at the beginning, Reynolds morphs seamlessly to his confident, semi-egotistical counterpart. He has fantastic comic timing and a knack for physical comedy. Anna Faris nails the part of the bratty pop star that really just needs to be slapped about a half dozen times. Amy Smart is just right as the beautiful, sweet girl who just doesn’t know what’s right for her when it comes to guys. Chris Klein turns up as paramedic Dusty, who was also after Jamie back in high school. He is a true BS artist and Klein gets to ham it up big-time.
Just Friends is very familiar territory. It borrows liberally from There’s Something About Mary and just about every other film in the genre of the past decade or so, but the energy and honesty of its subject matter is bound to be overlooked. Here’s a film for all of us “losers,” and it gets the job done.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 96 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content including some dialogue.
Theatrical Release: November 23, 2005
Directed by: Roger Kumble
Written by: Adam “Tex” Davis
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Chris Klein, Amy Smart, Chris Marquette, Julie Hagerty