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  Just Friends Settle For Less
Year: 2005
Director: Roger Kumble
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, Chris Klein, Chris Marquette, Giacomo Beltrami, Fred Ewanuick, Amy Matysio, Julie Hagerty, Wendy Anderson, Barry Flatman, Devyn Burant, Jaden Ryan, Annie Brebner, Ty Olsson, Stephen Root
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ten years ago, back in 1995, Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) was in high school and harbouring a major crush on his best friend Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), but the problem was she would only ever be a friend to him because she didn't consider him boyfriend material. The guys she did consider boyfriend material were, in Chris’s view, a bunch of jerks, and it pained him that he could do nothing to prevent Jamie from falling for the wrong guy time and again, so now there was a small gathering at his pal's house, he was going to take the next step and admit his feelings to her. However, on arriving there was a big end of term party going on, and the heartfelt message he left in her yearbook was read out to all and sundry by the obnoxious jocks...

Which brings us to the present day in 2005 where ugly duckling Chris has transformed into a swan, losing a lot of weight and with his teeth fixed and hair sorted out; not only that but he has left his hometown far behind after his humiliation, securing a high-flying position in the music industry and any woman he wants falls at his feet, which we're meant to see as the ultimate fantasy of success fulfilled. Or are we? Sticking with Capraesque values, the small town he has abandoned has bred in him a sense that something from back there has been missing from his life, and all this partying and big money deals and swanky apartment and cars just is not enough when he still could do with a little thing called love.

Of course, love is not a little thing, it's a massive thing, and to find someone you really connected with only for circumstances and bad choices to keep you apart is the sort of issue that can prey on your mind for decades, so as in the movies, though not so often in reality, Chris gets a second chance at happiness. The private jet he’s on has to land when there’s a mishap onboard, which brought in the actress who practically stole the movie from under the nose of a game Reynolds, playing maniac pop star Samantha James was Anna Faris, as often the best thing in some pretty unappetising work, though for a change Just Friends operated as a setting that more or less rose to her level of talent. Faris generated a substantial degree of the laughs with her antics, if anything she wasn’t in it enough.

That plane landed at an airport close to the New Jersey region Chris grew up in, so naturally he has to go and see his mother (Julie Hagerty, playing it pixelated to winning effect) especially as it's nearly Christmas; she thinks he is here for the festivities when he's really there for convenience's sake, but he does get the excuse to check and see what happened to Jamie. She is working at the first bar he goes into with Samantha, and the awkward connection they have with each other continues throughout the plot, with the main joke being the longer Chris stays there trying to woo Jamie, the more he regresses to his previous teenage state. He doesn't get fat again, but he does start acting as if the years haven't passed, fighting with his younger brother (Chris Marquette), getting the retainer back on his teeth, and having to make excuses for himself.

But in the main, attempting to conquer the Everest in his life which is finally make Jamie his girlfriend. His methods, this is a comedy after all, are frequently ridiculous as to convey the idiots people can become when they fall in love but are unequipped to do very much successful about it, so it was humorous setpiece time once more as Chris gets into a violent ice hockey match with a bunch of little kids or manages to destroy the decorations festooning the Palamino house. However, the film had perhaps more sympathy with Jamie, for it was she who had made the really bad choices in life and found her dreams evaporating as she remained stuck in a rut, now fought over by Chris and too good to be true nice guy Dusty Lee (Chris Klein, twisting his nice guy image amusingly) for essentially who will sleep with her first. Unenviably reduced to this, Jamie has to make a decision, and that's what the drama hinged upon in a film that may not have been a classic, but enjoyed enough laughs to make for a very decent alternative Yuletide option. Music by Jeff Cardoni.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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