Just Friends (2005) — Former fattie flirts favorite friend

“Y’see, when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become a complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like a brother… or a lamp.”

Justin’s rating: That’s the power of love. Or so I’m told.

Justin’s review: I realize that Mutant Reviewers has become the occasional therapy ward for our happy-yet-neurotic staff who wish somehow to vent their lives to the world through the thinly-veiled metaphor of movies. It’s either that or walking into a Burger King one day and holding His Royal Highness hostage while we spill our guts. However, this also has the unfortunate side effect of tempting us to become completely egocentric.

Sometimes it’s too hard to resist though, you know?

As a complete dweeb in high school, I suffered the triple whammy of being overweight, nerdy, and an absolute magnet for the opposite sex — to be “just friends” with. I had more girl-space-friends, even through college, than you could shake a hefty and well-meaning stick at. If this sounds familiar to you, than you too know what it’s like being in the “friend zone,” where they see you as a precious and dear friend, and you want nothing more than to woo them with poetry and epic romantic gestures. The Friend Zone is known and loathed by many on both sides of the gender fence, a zone in which it simultaneously attracts and repels you until you’re pretty much half-mad and eat cake with a straw.

In today’s movie, Chris (Ryan Reynolds) was a chubby dork in high school who was BFF with Jamie (Amy Smart). He was deeply in love with her; she was completely oblivious. With the surety of a cow playing chicken with an oncoming train, Chris professes his love and then gets his feelings dragged five hundred yards in gravel. This event propels him out of New Jersey (yay!) and over to L.A. (boo!) where he drops a lot of weight, takes up hockey, and becomes a successful record mogul who sleeps with anything that burps estrogen.

Life is not all daisies, however. Forced to woo insane pop star Samantha Jones (Anna Faris) to his label, Chris finds himself making an emergency landing in — of all places — New Jersey and right back into the friend zone.

That’s right: even though he’s accomplished everything that most people would label success, in his hometown he’s still “chubby cheeks” and “just a friend” to Jamie (who’s now working a bar). Under the withering fire of previous expectations, his accomplishments crack and falter until the old dweeb pops back out, trying to make desperate plays for the woman he once loved and never had.

With such potentially depressing subject matter, I would not blame you one whit if you thought Just Friends to be a perfect movie right before you swallowed a handful of sleeping pills. Yet it’s not, not in the least. Reynolds proves my faith in his physical comedy from Van Wilder by bringing his patent mix of sarcasm, exaggerated facial expressions, and likable charm to the table. He’s simultaneously a richie jerk and a nerd in disguise, and he pulls off both well.

In short, you just need to know that this is one very funny movie. By the (admittedly lame) ending, I couldn’t really care if Jamie hooked up with Chris or not, but I vastly enjoyed the journey there. Samantha is a riot of a crazy spoiled brat that takes everything we’ve seen on MTV and presents it to us plump for target practice. Chris and his younger brother Mike partake in an antagonistic relationship that consists mainly of slapping and full body contact. Chris’ mother (the ever-awesome Julie Hagerty) is the most clueless woman in nine states. And Santa eventually gets torched. Are you sold yet?

Whether you’re the one in the friend zone or the customs officer ushering in your acquaintances to it while you date complete gherkins, Just Friends could bring you closer together, if just for a night.

Didja notice?

  • In the diner scene when the waitress brings Chris the “mountain” of pancakes, he indignantly tells Jamie that he has not and does not eat sweets. Yet in the Christmas morning scene, Chris’ brother Mike offers him one of Mom’s Christmas cookies and he accepts it and takes a bite out of it.
  • The awesome Santa scene!
  • The Notebook… NOOOO!

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