Just Like Heaven is lighter than the cotton candy at the summer State Fair and is riddled with sitcom-style antics, but it’s that sheer goofiness and willingness to go for broke that makes it a surprisingly delectable romantic comedy. In a summer full of surprises for the genre, Just Like Heaven will be a surefire hit with the female crowd and one of those movies that guys will be all macho about, but will probably admit to liking it in private.
Reese Witherspoon stars as Elizabeth Masterson, a busy-body who is trying to work her way up in the medical field. She’s so busy that she has no time in life for a significant other, and she’s constantly reminded of that by nosy co-workers. After taking another step up the ladder, tragedy strikes in the form of a car accident.
David Abbott (Ruffalo) is a loner looking for an apartment in San Francisco. After being shown a few urban atrocities, David finds himself renting the exact same apartment that Elizabeth resided in. David is still mourning the loss of his wife from a few years back and spends much of his time drinking beer and watching sports. He doesn’t want to socialize or meet anyone new, but that’s about to change real quickly.
One night after downing a few too many, David has a run-in with Elizabeth in the apartment. Elizabeth insists that this is her place and orders him to leave. Clearly spooked, David summons the help of Jack Houriskey (Logue), a therapist, and Darryl (Heder), a psychic bookworm. Is David seeing Elizabeth’s ghost? Is she really dead? Will love prosper?
Just Like Heaven contains some nice surprises and a lovable zaniness, particularly in its unlikely conclusion. Romantic comedies over the past few years have played it so safe and have never really been willing to let loose, but Just Like Heaven‘s denouement is so off-the-hook that one can’t help but sit with a smile.
The cast is solid, particularly Ruffalo, who has a knack for dry humor and timing. I have been impressed with his performances over the past few years and this film could be his big breakout as a leading man. Reese Witherspoon does what she’s paid to do, and that’s to stand around looking cute all the time. She’s clearly having a blast playing a ghost for much of the film, but it’s not really all that memorable. Ruffalo and the supporting players get the best dialogue. The supporting work by Donal Logue and Jon Heder is satisfactory, with Heder actually getting some laughs out of me after the disaster that is Napoleon Dynamite.
Just Like Heaven mixes the ingredients nicely, and the film should please both the dating crowd and the Witherspoon faithful. Quirky and offbeat, Just Like Heaven delivers what you’d expect it to.
Length: 95 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content.
Theatrical Release: September 16, 2005
Directed by: Mark Waters
Written by: Peter Tolan & Leslie Dixon. Based upon the novel “If It Were True” by Marc Levy.
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Donal Logue, Dina Spybey, Ben Shenkman, Jon Heder