Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Just Friends" the movie!

Just Friends: movie review
Directed by: Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Chris Klein, Anna Farris, and other people

Finally, the movie adaptation of my blog! Well, okay, not really, but sorta. Kinda sorta.

The versatility of ipods has gone on to create a bevy of new tricks, from music, pictures, video, and predicting the future. Now, there are podcasts, and like a faithful movie freak, I am a subscriber to Ebert and Roeper. They are a fun batch to listen to when discussing their movie reviews and I was disappointed to hear that they both hated “Just Friends.”

I am a fan of Ryan Reynolds, and not in the typical female way. He’s a funny guy with great potential to become an A-list actor. I look forward to his future work, as I know he’s lined up on some high-profile projects. However, before Reynolds decided to become a serious actor, he was a serious comedian.

His work on Mad TV and the very entertaining “Van Wilder” have garnered him the reputation as a comedian with boyish looks and immature antics. I think where Reynolds succeeds his subtle use of comedy rather than the in-your-face Jim Carrey type (which works great for Carrey). Reynolds implores that everyman humor, one that I think is instantly relatable and accessible to his target audience, which would fall in the 18 – 28 age range.

Anyways, “Just Friends” tackles the story of Chris (played by Reynolds) who, in 1995 is graduating high school and has a great “friendship” with Jamie (Amy Smart) who he is coincidentally head-over-heels in love with. The problem is that Chris is fat, wears a retainer, and has Napoleon-hair (I’ve got lots to say about this later). There is another character in love with Jamie as well, Dusty (played by Chris Klein) who is a long-haired, pimple-faced, guitar-playing dweeb who tries to win Jamie with his awful music.

Now, for you chicks that dig that sorta thing, I guess Chris is in the wrong when he freaks out that, while at a party, everyone discovers that Chris has written a love confession in Jamie’s yearbook, prompting everyone to tease the fat guy in love, alienating him from the town and prompting him to move away and never to be heard from again.

Fast forward 10 years and Chris is a hot, handsome, ruthless music exec who uses his newfound looks to use up every woman he interacts with, thereby getting revenge for his past humiliations. Reynolds is approached by his boss a few days before Christmas in order to take their new pop princess star (Anna Farris) to Paris in order to promote.

Reynolds reluctantly agrees and takes the job. Farris is hilarious as the Britney/Christina/Jessica/Ashlee/Paris clone of self-centered stupidity and she hams the hell out of the role. Farris, most remembered for her work in the Scary Movie series, is a true comic talent and she has a lot of fun here.

On the plane to Paris our bubblegum princess causes an emergency landing when she microwaves her Ahi Tuna with aluminum foil still wrapped around it. As fate would have it, the plane lands in New Jersey, Reynolds’s hometown.

Delayed and tired, Reynolds heads home with his pop princess in tow. Julie Haggerty shows up as Reynolds’s not-quite-there mom and does a fun job. Yes, I said fun job. Eat me.

Reynolds’s brother also shows up in the form of Chris Marquette, who was so great in last year’s “The Girl Next Door.” Reynolds’s and Marquette basically beat the shit out of each other throughout the movie and while some critics may feel this is immature and slapstick, well, they must not have brothers.

I have two brothers and that’s about all we did growing up. We found new ways to terrorize each other, even sinking to the level of using knives and lawn equipment to disable or even attempt to kill each other. I love my brothers.

On the eve of their arrival, Reynolds and Farris head to a local bar where they run into some of Reynolds’s old friends and he meets the love of his life once again. Everyone has the usual reaction to his sudden-hotness and are visibly shocked. Reynolds and Smart have nice chemistry together, never an odd moment or weird pairing (that isn’t intentional anyways)

Reynolds, now confident in his new “skin” asks Smart out to lunch the next day and plans to play the asshole role to win her over. Unfortunately it doesn’t work and he comes off just how he acts. He decides to try again and invites her out to go ice-skating the next day to which she agrees.

Now a really good hockey player back in LA, Reynolds is duped when he gets a bad pair of skates and looks almost as bad as he did 10 years ago. When some kids need a pick-up player for their hockey game, Reynolds agrees and gets his ass handed to him, much to his shock and dismay, especially when it’s in front of the girl he loves.

Reynolds ends up taking a slap shot to the face and the paramedics are called. And who should appear as a newly hot paramedic, but Dusty (Chris Klein) who picks Smart up after she passes out. Smart is marveled by Dusty and his drastic change. Reynolds, strapped into a spine board is flabbergasted.

On the ride to the hospital Smart gives Klein her phone number, writing it down over Reynolds, who inaudibly yells, “This is bullshit.”

Sensing that Smart is now susceptible to the charms of a uber-likeable paramedic, Reynolds decides to be a “pussy” and play the role of the wuss for Smart. So, naturally, he puts on some nerdy clothes and invites Smart out to see “The Notebook.” When Smart comes to pick him up Reynolds is shocked to see Klein in tow, as a friend of course. Klein invites Reynolds mom who agrees to come and the scene of the four of them watching the film is pure comic bliss.

Meanwhile, Reynolds passes Farris off to his younger brother who has a major crush on the pop diva. Their scenes are great and play out well.

The rest of the film delves into the war between Reynolds and Klein to win the heart of Smart. They try every trick they can and Reynolds seems to fail at every move. Naturally, this leads to his recognition of “just being himself” and to be honest with Smart.

In one scene he actually gets her into bed and can’t bring up the nerve to make a move. In his “thought voiceover” he says, “You don’t even deserve a penis.”

There’s a multitude of comic gems from everyone in the cast, which really makes this film stand out. It’s not a revolutionary comedy nor is it the gross-out comedy the critics make it out to be.

The movie tackles the issue of guys playing that friend role when they really want more and the consequences they pay for it, which is both hilarious and too true for some of those sissies. It's great fun, but I would have taken it even further on the issue. But I didn't write the movie. Some dude named "Tex" wrote it. I'm not kidding.

“Just Friends” is just a lot of fun and will be totally hilarious to the right crowd. I could see how some just might not get the comedy. It is not as refined as, say, a Wes Anderson comedy, but it’s somewhere between Van Wilder and Meet the Fockers. The real strength is in Reynolds and his supporting cast who take a fairly by the numbers script and really make it fun with their unique blend of humor and take on the characters.

Whether on a date or seeing this with “friends” this is a fun movie. I had a blast and laughed throughout the whole film, which is more than I can say for many so-called comedies out there.

I look forward to unrated cut on DVD when they can say fuck and maybe show boobies.

Movie grade: B+

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