Faris is best part of flat `Just Friends'

MovieReview C+

November 23, 2005|By CHRIS KALTENBACH | CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Anna Faris is shamelessly hilarious as a vainglorious pop idol in Just Friends, channeling every blond pop tart who ever flounced her way into the modern pop consciousness (Britney, Christina, Jessica ... you know who you are).

Ever-whining, ever-tawdry, her mind (what there is of it) firmly lodged in the gutter, Faris' Samantha James is a comic creation of manic beauty. She struts, she pouts, she preens, she shouts. When she's onscreen, Just Friends is as funny as anything to appear in theaters in 2005.

Unfortunately, she's not on- screen nearly enough, for this isn't her movie. Instead, it's built around Ryan Reynolds, whose Chris has spent the better part of his life pining for the beautiful girl next door - who, alas, sees him only as a best friend.

The funny part of this relationship, the nexus around which the film is designed to revolve, is that Chris was a fat kid in high school whose attempts to make the luminous Jamie (Amy Smart) understand how he felt led to a public humiliation and a scarred psyche he's never gotten over. Now, 10 years later and considerably slimmed down, unexpectedly stranded in his New Jersey hometown, he decides it's time to make things right and - finally - get the girl of his dreams.

Thank goodness he brought Samantha along on the trip. Otherwise, Just Friends would have been just another uninspired warmedy, a tepid mix of salaciousness and sentiment that's not inspired enough for the former and not sincere enough for the latter.

Director Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions) and rookie screenwriter Adam "Tex" Davis craft a set-up with great potential - aided by the remarkable fat suit that's grafted onto Reynolds - but never really take it anywhere. Much of the problem lies with Reynolds, who never makes his desperation funny, only pitiful. Had he played his character manic, or chronically inept, the laughs would have probably come more freely. But instead, he plays Chris as smarmy and clueless, which leaves the audience unable to root for him, much less laugh at his exploits.

Still, whenever Just Friends threatens to become a total drag, Faris bops onscreen for some serious comic business - either saving the film, or making things worse by pointing out what could have been.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Just Friends (New Line Cinema)

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Ferris.

Directed by Roger Kumble.

Rated PG-13 (sexual content, including some dialogue).

Time 96 minutes.

Review C+

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.