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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.9%
Worth A Look: 25.86%
Just Average39.66%
Pretty Crappy: 13.79%
Sucks: 13.79%

6 reviews, 22 user ratings

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Just Friends
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Well, it isn't quite as bad as 'Waiting'"
2 stars

The funniest joke in “Just Friends” comes right at the start during the opening credits when it is revealed that the screenwriter is one Adam “Tex” Davis. Strictly speaking, there is nothing particularly terrible about a nickname but as a general rule, such things should generally remain in the barroom or shop class in which it was conceived and should not under any circumstance appear on your WGA membership card if you want anyone to take your work seriously. After all, do you think that “Taxi Driver” would have been so highly acclaimed if it were credited to Paul “Scooter” Schrader? Would “Being John Malkovich” have been regarded as genius as the brainchild of Charlie “Stretch” Kaufman? Can you see Robert McKee or Syd Field holding up a copy of “Chinatown” while extolling the three-act structure of Robert “Touch” Towne? And if you think that I am beating this particular bit into the ground in an effort to put off writing about yet another lame-ass comedy devoid of wit, style or a point, you are correct.

However, in lieu of extending the joke to make reference to Nora “Finger Cuffs” Ephron, I shall press on. “Just Friends” opens on Graduation Day 1995 as portly geek Chris Brenner (Ryan Reynolds) pines for the love of his life, platonic best friend Jamie Palomino (Amy Smart). He plans to confess his true feelings that night at a party but he winds up being publicly humiliated instead. Ten years later, the braces, flab and nerdiness have been removed and Chris is now a music industry weasel and a slick love-em-and-leave-em ladykiller–at least as slick as the eternally smug Reynolds can approximate. While whisking pop star Samantha James (Anna Faris)–imagine a cross between Christina Aguilera’s wardrobe and the combined IQ’s of Jessica and Ashlee Simpson–to Paris in order to sign her to his label, their plane is diverted to Chris’s New Jersey hometown, a place that he hasn’t been back to since that fateful graduation.

. While crashing with his mom (Julie Hagerty) and brother (Chris Marquette) for the night, Chris goes into town and discovers that Jamie has just moved back into town and still looks as good as she did in high school. He hits upon a brilliant idea–he will take her out and treat her just as cruelly and horribly as all the guys she dated in high school did instead of him. Eventually, it finally dawns on him that she has actually grown up and matured and would now be more inclined to be with someone like he used to be. Unfortunately, another former geek-turned-stud (Chris Klein) has also appeared on the scene and seems to be as sweet and sensitive as Chris used to be–is he for real or is this guy just doing the exact same thing that Chris is attempting, only from a different angle?

Obviously, “Just Friends” is a carbon copy of the infinitely superior “There’s Something About Mary” but the difference is that in the earlier film, we actually cared about the characters to a degree and that made both the romance and the comedy work. Here, the major characters are so shallow and unpleasant that it is impossible to work up much rooting interest for them. Reynolds is thoroughly annoying as the dweeby Chris and throughly obnoxious as the slick version–if a romantic comedy is to work at all, it should not a have lead character so creepy and unpleasant that you long for the brief moments when he isn’t on-screen. And as the object of his desire, Smart is pretty but completely uninteresting–aside from the fact that she is indeed a babe, there is nothing about her character that would explain why people are still pining for her ten years down the line. And since she doesn’t respond to fat, ugly and sincere Chris but does with thin, handsome and sincere Chris–sorry if I blew the ending–even though he behaves exactly the same in both incarnations, the movie seems to be suggesting that she is pretty shallow herself. A clever movie might have had some fun with that but while I can think of many words that would adequately describe “Just Friends,” “clever” is not the one that comes immediately to mind.

Instead, director Roger Kumble is more comfortable with endless scenes of idiotic slapstick. Chris gets caught in a pee-wee hockey game that leaves him spewing blood everywhere (but not before throwing kids around on the rink, ha-ha). An elaborate outdoor Christmas display is inadvertently destroyed so we can get an “edgy” close-up of a giant plastic Santa Clause bursting into flame. Much of the abuse is heaped on Samantha–she gets Tasered twice, knocked off a balcony at a mall and doped up with so much Vicodin that she can do nothing but smear her face with toothpaste. Now I am not saying that women can’t be the target of broad physical slapstick but Kumble handles it in such a flat-footed manner, as he did with the various depravation he put Selma Blair through in “The Sweetest Thing,” that the results are pathetically unfunny and borderline cruel.

The hell of it is that when she isn’t being mistreated, Faris is actually the closest that the film gets to a funny character, even if it is basically a broader version of the spoof on Cameron Diaz that she delivered in “Lost in Translation.” As she has demonstrated in the “Scary Movie” films, she has a merry face, a charming disposition and a cheerful willingness to throw herself into any number of potentially embarrassing situations in order to sell a joke. And yet, for all her broad physical schtick, what really sells the character as more than a one-note joke is her crack comic timing–even when the lines she is given aren’t particularly funny, she has the ability to put them forth in a way that makes them sound much funnier than they actually are. When she pops up, the film automatically begins to perk up so I guess that it was almost inevitable that Kumble and “Tex” would make sure to keep her off the screen for most of the final third.

Other than that, what else is there to say about “Just Friends,” a film whose single best line of dialogue is a quote from Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and whose chief virtue is that it isn’t as repellent as “Waiting,” the previous film to feature Reynolds and Faris? This is a loud, grating and sloppy film–the kind where characters start off a scene behaving one way and abruptly change halfway through for no apparent reason–and the only thing worse than the weak attempts at comedy are the even weaker attempts at sentimentality. If you are someone trying to convince a friend to become something more, avoid this movie like the plague. However, if you are trying to make sure that you will never have to see or hear from them again, go see it with them post-haste and pretend to think it is hysterical–I guarantee that if they have any shred of taste or dignity, they’ll never want to associate with you again

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13514&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/23/05 00:15:06
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User Comments

8/27/20 Suzanne The slapstick and Ryan Reynolds' timing are the only redeeming elements. 3 stars
10/30/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 3 stars
5/17/07 ES Some really funny moments 4 stars
5/06/07 David Pollastrini Not great not terrible 3 stars
4/01/07 Stanley Thai A pretty funny film but feels like a 2 hour movie. 3 stars
11/16/06 Christina A I loved the movie!!I still get a kick out of the whole NSYNC thing..Two thumbs up 5 stars
10/30/06 your worst goddamn nightmare Great lil' film... I thoroughly enjoyed it for laughs... 5 stars
10/29/06 Tara Great movie! it was really funny and original. 5 stars
7/30/06 Nicole Hated it..wished the whole cast would die in the Xmas explosion so the movie could end! 1 stars
7/06/06 Joe I wanted to kill Anna Faris's character. The most annoying performance I've ever seen. 2 stars
3/12/06 Roderick Cromar Better than I expected. Loads of belly-laughs. Faris especially good. 4 stars
2/09/06 chris f reasonable film 4 stars
1/24/06 Kirsten Dunst and Anna Faris fan in deeper mourning Seems Sofia Coppola can direct no promising actress without turning her into a total shrew! 1 stars
1/24/06 Another Anna Faris fan still in mourning Anna Faris's downward spiral reaches point where she'd be more appealing eating her shit! 1 stars
1/24/06 Regina Haniger I totally lost count of the # of points at which this snotfest should have been euthanized! 1 stars
1/15/06 kristian williams its not as bad as your making it out to be its not suposed to be clever 3 stars
12/21/05 tina mateer sort of boring and would not tell any one to go see it 2 stars
12/08/05 Steve Michaud I just love people who grade movies not on cinematic worth but on the "hotness" of its lead 1 stars
11/25/05 amy no matter what ryan looks like he is super dooper freakin' hott 5 stars
11/24/05 Idiot_for_LMP Went kicking and screaming! Worse than I expected!! 1 stars
11/24/05 baseball-nut The film industry has not had a good year....total crap! 1 stars
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  23-Nov-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Mar-2006

  06-Jan-2006 (12A)


Directed by
  Roger Kumble

Written by
  Adam "Tex" Davis

  Ryan Reynolds
  Amy Smart
  Anna Faris
  Chris Klein
  Chris Marquette
  Stephen Root

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