Just Friends (2005)

(Netflix Streaming, September 2015) I wasn’t expecting much from this romantic comedy, but got a little bit more than I thought.  Much of the film’s laughs come straight from Ryan Reynolds, who plays a bit of a double role here as an awkward overweight teenager and then a womanizing music executive.  Stuck in his hometown while caring for a deliriously neurotic pop-star singer, Just Friends blends friend-zone dynamics with holiday scenery for a going-home story that sparkles once in a while.  Reynolds has impeccable comic timing (although the film loves him just a bit too much in gawky overweight makeup), and Anna Faris also has decent material to play with as the unstable diva.  (Meanwhile, Amy Smart is dull as the romantic lead… but she doesn’t have much to do.)  There’s something curiously sentimental in how the protagonist rediscovers his estranged hometown, picking up past relationships along the way.  Just Friends strings along its comic set-pieces, hitting the usual rom-com expectations along the way, but falters with its perfunctory ending, which basically mouths the words we’d been waiting for.  Still, this is not a film to see for the plot – it’s best appreciated as a collection of comic moments, set-pieces and character traits… and if you squint slightly, you’ll recognize that the movie was shot in a real Canadian winter and mentally adjust the script accordingly.

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