Ah, the fat suit. How did Hollywood ever manage a comedy without one?
"Just Friends," with Amy Smart and Ryan Reynolds, opens today. (New Line)
Even though Ryan Reynolds straps one on for part of this holiday comedy, he manages quite nicely without it, too. The actor from TV's long-gone "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" carries this piece of romantic slapstick like a natural.
By turns as funny as Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell or Jack Black, Reynolds proves he can deliver the comedic goods.
"Just Friends" begins in New Jersey in 1995, when an overweight Chris Brander (Reynolds) wants to tell his hot best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), that he'd like to be more than friends.
He desperately wants to get out of the "friend zone," but it's not going to happen. Instead, his feelings are made embarrassingly public at an end-of-the-schoolyear party, and he bicycles away in frustration, vowing to be someone someday.
Cut to 10 years later, when Chris has slimmed down and become a music industry executive—and a player. He thinks he has it all. But an assignment from hell—taking care of a pop star (Anna Faris)—drops him back in New Jersey unexpectedly.
There he bumps back into Amy, for whom he still has feelings. As he tries to woo the girl of his dreams, nothing goes right.
Under the direction of Roger Kumble ("Cruel Intentions"), this 96-minute comedy feels a bit like "The Wedding Singer," which starred Adam Sandler. "Just Friends," however, is probably funnier. These cast members possess unbelievable chemistry. Their timing is spot-on. The cadence of their comedy couldn't be better.
Anna Faris slathers her pop star portrayal with over-the-top juvenility. Christopher Marquette plays Chris' brother with Stooge-like appeal. Chris Klein plays a suave EMT who gives Chris stiff competition for Jamie's heart. Add to all this Julie Hagerty as Chris' ditsy mom, and you have one whacked-out group of people for Christmas in New Jersey.
If physical comedy is your bag, "Just Friends" has lots of offer. Stunts with hockey games, Christmas decorations, taser guns and "normal" personal interaction are a riot. It does have several sexual situations, however, and isn't nearly as family friendly as, say, last year's "Elf," also from New Line Cinema.
One of the movie's funniest moments comes at the beginning (and during the closing credits) when Chris lip-syncs to "I Swear" by the group All-4-One. For the Gen X and Y crowd, it's laughing nirvana.
Tucked inside this smartly produced comedy is a message about friendship, dating, being yourself and—because it's a comedy—the fact that foil doesn't belong in microwaves.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including some dialogue. Reviewer's Note: There are quite a few references to various types of sexual activity.
Director: Roger Kumble
Writer: Adam "Tex" Davis
Cast: Chris: Ryan Reynolds; Jamie: Amy Smart; Samantha: Anna Faris; Dusty: Chris Klein; Chris' Mom: Julie Hagerty; Mike: Christopher Marquette.
The movie's official Web site is here.