Just Friends is no great shakes, but the trailer seems to emphasize every pratfall, which makes the film look like a romantic comedy crossed with a Three Stooges short. Not that there isn't a lot of dumb physical shtick in the film, but it's essentially a sweet, if totally clichéd, tale featuring that oldest of feel-good stories: how love triumphs over all.
Just Friends opens in the '90s in suburban New Jersey, where fat and dorky Chris (Ryan Reynolds) is best friends with cutie pie Jamie (Amy Smart) but is, of course, secretly in love with her. After admitting his love at a high-school graduation party, Jamie gives Chris the "just friends" speech, and he storms off.
Cut to ten years later. Chris has lost about 50 pounds, is a high-powered p.r. exec and a serious ladies man. He's also just been given the job of turning obnoxious party girl Samantha James (a very funny Anna Faris) into the latest pop singing sensation. On their way to Paris, the duo's plane malfunctions and has to put down-where else?-in Joisey, near Chris' old home town. While there, he meets Jamie for the first time in a decade, and finds he's still in love with her. But Chris soon discovers he has competition from Dusty (Chris Klein), another high-school loser who has turned into a twenty-something hunka hunka burning hottie.
No one will be surprised by the plot machinations that ensue, but the film is saved from utter tedium thanks to a relatively intelligent screenplay by Adam "Tex" Davis and the amiability of the leads. Reynolds might not be leading-man material in the "A"-list sense, but he's a relaxed screen presence with solid comic timing. Smart, ever adorable, is the kind of charmer every guy wants to hook up with, and Faris, channeling both Goldie Hawn and Britney Spears, is a real hoot.
One nitpicking caveat: Can filmmakers who make movies that are site-specific at least attempt to make the locations look and feel authentic? There is nothing in Just Friends that even remotely smacks of New Jersey, from the obviously fake license plates to the white-bread look of the locations and the total absence of any Joisey accents. Of course, once the end credits roll, you realize why this is: Just Friends was filmed in Saskatchewan.