December 1, 2005
Just Friends (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz
Ryan Reynolds dons a fat suit and some double-chin latex in hopes of
moving past “that guy from Van Wilder” status in Just Friends.
Hang in there, Ryan Reynolds. You’re just an Old School away from making
Will Ferrell status — a position that will give you enough financial
stability to figure out what kind of acting you really want to do. Just
Friends, unfortunately, is still just your Night at the Roxbury.
It’s 1995 and Chris (Reynolds) is a chubby high school senior with
unfortunate hair and a retainer. He loves, with the flaming passion of a
boy band song, Jamie (Amy Smart), a blonde popular girl who has enough
of a heart of gold to consider Chris one of her very best friends. And
it is, of course, that last word that slices like a dagger through
Chris’s heart. He has no interest in being her “friend” and angrily,
tearfully, pedals his bike away from her graduation party when he
realizes that friend is all he’s ever going to get. I’ll show you all,
years later and Show Them he has. Chris is a music industry promoter who
has the contacts to hang out with the hippest of the hip and the looks
to score himself any vapid Barbie he desires. Except, though a brittle
love ’em and leave ’em type, Chris still desires Jamie. So, on a
Christmas Eve trip to Paris with high-maintenance pop star Samantha
(Anna Faris), when the plane breaks down in Chris’s hometown in New
Jersey, he’s secretly a bit excited. He heads to a local watering hole
where, wouldn’t you know it, Jamie is tending bar. With the tables a bit
turned, Chris hopes to finally win not just Jamie’s friendship but her
lust (or love, whatever, but you know he’d settle for hot monkey sex).
He delays the continuation of the trip to attempt to woo Jaime, a move
that requires him to push the crazed Samantha into the care of his
little brother (the very young John Cusack-ish Chris Marquette).
wait, there’s more! Also a longtime admirer of Jamie is Dusty (Chris
Klein). In high school, Dusty was a long-haired pimple-faced wallflower.
Now, he’s an EMT who’s a bit of a player. After Chris’s wooing ends in
injury (turns out wooing a girl he sincerely likes is not a skill
new-and-improved Chris has mastered), Dusty shows up, all manly
shoulders and sensitive side. Can Chris surmount his own insecurity and
ego long enough to out-good-guy this new competitor?
What will stick with me more than anything else about Just Friends is
the fact that 1995 is now 10 years ago and a Backstreet Boys song can
conjure up nostalgia. Damn, when they start playing Pearl Jam on the
classic rock stations, I’m signing up for a facelift.
Beyond sudden realizations about my own mortality, very little in Just
Friends stuck. This bizarre hybrid of slapstick and romance felt too
Frankensteined, too chicken’s-head-on-cow’s-body. And the introduction
of the third act rival for Jamie’s attentions was a very what-are-we-gonna-do-now
approach to the plot, which seemed to use up all its jokes faster than
Like the platonic relationships it doesn’t come close to mining for all
their comic possibilities, Just Friends is sparkless.