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Richard Strachan

Published January 1st, 2005 | by Richard Strachan

Just Friends Review

Classification: 12 Director: Roger Kumble Rating: 3/5

This is one of those Hollywood comedies where a toned and attractive actor dons an unconvincing fat suit to prove the tired old adage that ‘it’s not what you look like but who you are inside that really counts.’ Which is all very well, as long as what you look like inside happens to be a toned and attractive actor.

Ryan Reynolds plays Chris Brander, an overweight geek who is best friends at high school with the popular and attractive Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). After a humiliating attempt to declare his love for her on graduation night, Chris turns his back on his friends and his hometown in order to reinvent himself as an arrogant, womanising Los Angeles record producer. Ten years later, Chris is ordered by his boss to accompany flaky and aggressive pop singer Samantha James (Anna Faris) to a recording session in Paris, but a mid-air microwave disaster grounds the plane in Chris’ New Jersey hometown, where he hasn’t been since leaving it behind all those years ago.

Naturally, while Chris is the epitome of LA style and sophistication, the high school football hero has been reduced to a balding, overweight drunk, and his friends have all settled down to middle-class suburban family lives. Jamie works in a local bar and is training to be a teacher, and while Chris readjusts to being back in the family home, he decides to make one final attempt to win her over. Of course, his cool and aloof new style turns Jamie completely off, and she finds herself more attracted to another ex-geek recently returned to his hometown – Dusty Lee (Chris Klein), now reinvented as a life-saving paramedic and songwriter. When Chris realises that Dusty is only pretending to be sensitive and caring so he can have revenge on all the girls who rejected him in high school, he decides to reconnect with his inner geek to prove to Jamie that he is the same guy he was ten years ago.

Like most American comedies, ‘Just Friends’ relies far too much on slapstick and face-pulling to provoke its laughs, but it’s relatively restrained when compared to other ‘gross-out’ teen comedies on the market, and the dialogue is occasionally quite sharp and pointed. Reynolds is good as the sleazy LA record producer, but less convincing when he tries to play nice, while Faris is suitably demented as the borderline insane pop star. There’s also a refreshingly abrasive and cynical theme running through the film, that men and women can try to be ‘just friends’ if they want, but they’re fooling themselves if they don’t think sexual tension is going to get in the way somewhere down the line.

As Thomas Wolfe said, ‘You can’t go home again’, and while ‘Just Friends’ is quite funny, if you want a really good film about the perils of returning to your old stomping ground after a decade away, you’d be better off watching ‘Grosse Point Blank’.

DVD Extras:

Deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurettes, alternative ending, outtakes, trailer, music video


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