Ryan Reynolds as Chris Brander
Amy Smart as Julie Palamino
Chris Klein as Dusty Dinkleman
Anna Faris as Samantha James
Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) loves his best friend Julie (Amy Smart) but on graduation day, when he’s finally prepared to confess his love, things go horribly awry and he flees New Jersey in disgrace. Ten years later and Chris is a new man — a rich, handsome, successful womanizer. When a pop star (Anna Faris) he is escorting crashes her plane in Trenton, he finds himself back home for the first time in a decade, and face to face with the woman who broke his heart.
There’s nothing new here but “Just Friends” is crafted with an excellent sense of timing and buoyed by a series of strong little moments and a few truly hearty laughs.
This is Reynolds’ movie — no two ways about it — and he makes the most of it. With a reckless disregard for his own dignity, he throws himself first into Chris’s teenage fat suit to sing a Backstreet Boys song, and then into an increasing number of humiliating situations. “Just Friends” is one of those movies that is largely about destroying its lead on screen, and Reynolds takes to it like a duck to water. Reynolds and director Roger Krumble (“Cruel Intentions”) have great timing — particularly for physical comedy — and while many of the jokes have been done before, the duo still makes them work.
The other stand out is Chris Klein as Reynolds’ newly discovered arch-nemesis. He plays up Dusty’s too-angelic-to-be-true and evil-rock-guy sides with equal aplomb and every scene with him is a treat. The only downside is how quickly he is dumped. Instead of coming up with a good logical conclusion to his story, he is summarily gotten rid of in a terrible piece of deus ex machina, and Dusty really deserved more.
“Just Friends” is one of those comedies about putting its lead into as deep a hole as possible, and one of the problems these types of comedies have is that no one can think of a good way to get the hero out of the mess he has gotten himself into. Instead, it is just sort of ended for him. Although this ends far too abruptly to be really satisfying, the journey to that point is funny enough to be worth it.
Not particularly original but extremely well crafted, “Just Friends” works largely due to Reynolds’ screen charisma and comic timing, but it does work, and works well.