Just Friends [DVD]
Director : s Roger Kumble
Screenplay : Adam “Tex” Davis
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2005
Stars : Ryan Reynolds(Chris Brander), Amy Smart (Jamie Palamino), Anna Faris (Samantha James), Chris Klein (Dusty Dinkleman), Christopher Marquette (Mike), Julie Hagerty (Chris’s Mom), Stephen Root (KC), Fred Ewanuick (Clark), Amy Matysio (Darla), Barry Flatman (Mr. Palamino), Maria Arcé (Athena)
There is something strangely appealing about Ryan Reynolds, even though his most consistent character trait is a kind of über-relaxed, vaguely disinterested smarm. The erstwhile Van Wilder has appeared in a variety of roles since that 2002 National Lampoon misfire, but he has never quite been able to shed the persona.
Oddly enough, that works to his advantage in Just Friends, in which he plays Chris Brander, who at the beginning of the movie (circa 1995) is an overweight drama geek who pines away pathetically for his best friend, a beautiful and extremely popular blonde cheerleader named Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart) who, of course, wants to be “just friends.” Screenwriter Adam “Tex” Davis needs to be given props for naming the object of Chris’s tortured affection Jamie Palamino because it’s the kind of name you can’t say without sounding passionate about it--Pal-oh-me-noooooooooh. It virtually demands to be hissed through clenched teeth with a combination of desire and frustration.
Reynolds turns on the smarm when the movie kicks ahead 10 years and finds him as a newly fit, finely trimmed, well-tailored, and quite cynical music executive living in the fast lane in Los Angeles, having fled the horrors of his New Jersey teenager-dom. He’s an industry and sexual player, but at all times we are aware that his smarm is an act, a costume Chris has tried on as vengeance against his former life. Having seen the genuine, awkward, romantically inclined teenage Chris of the movie’s opening scene, the “new” Chris, however svelte and successful with women, is just a drag show.
Sure enough, as soon as Chris is back in Jersey and within radar range of Jamie, who still lives in their hometown and clearly has not made much of herself, he is right back where he started: awkward, unsure of himself, and disastrously in love with a girl who may not love him back in the way he wants. Plus, he’s saddled with the unwanted company of an insipid, burgeoning pop star named Samantha James (Anna Faris), who is an amalgam of every odious trait normal people ascribe to shallow celebrities (Faris is clearly playing off Britney Spears and Paris Hilton stereotypes, but Samantha is a comic creation that exists almost entirely in her own galaxy). And, if that weren’t enough, Chris finds himself challenged by another geek-from-the-past-turned-hunk in the form of Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein), a guitar-strumming paramedic who is masculine enough to play rescuer but sensitive enough to not feel at all ashamed for loving The Notebook.
In its sometimes meandering up-and-down storyline, Just Friends is never wanting for humor and even a few stabs at pathos, especially for anyone who has ever gotten caught in the “friend zone.” Aside from Faris’s wicked comic turn as the insanely possessive pop ditty, which allows her to run away with every scene she’s in, Reynolds is largely responsible for keeping the movie afloat, which he does remarkably well without overplaying his hand. He is the rare (and underappreciated) comedic actor who can generate a wellspring of impact by simply opening his eyes wider or doing a double-take. Because so much of the movie revolves around his being increasingly humiliated in his Jersey hometown--essentially stripping away the L.A. gloss and finding the shy fat kid still hiding within--we can’t help but side with him and his affections, even when he’s going about it all wrong.
|Just Friends DVD|
|Distributor||New Line Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||March 7, 2006|
|Just Friends features a typically first-rate New Line transfer of a recent theatrical release, with good, clean detail and excellent color. Nothing to complain about here.|
|The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack serves the movie well. Dialogue is well maintained on the front soundstage while the surround tracks are used to open up the music and give some of the comedic sound effects an added kick.|
|Though not bearing a “Special Edition” label, the DVD of Just Friends has a surprisingly robust set of supplements. There is a lively audio commentary that features virtually everyone associated with making the movie (well, not really everyone, but it does include director Roger Kumble, writer Adam “Tex” Davis, producer Chris Bender, co-producer Jake Weinter, and executive producers Richard Brener and Cale Boyter. All six men were recorded in one session together, and you can tell they were having a good time cutting up and talking about the movie, which sometimes leads to more joking than information. You can also get optional commentary on six deleted/alternate scenes, one of which features a different ending and another of which gives us an amusing cameo by Alanis Morrissette. Overall, though, you can see why most of these scenes were axed because they’re either narratively redundant or just not very good. Because this is a comedy, there has to be a gag reel, and the three-minute ode to actors blowing their lines and cracking up in the middle of shooting is about what you would expect. The nine behind-the-scenes featurettes, which can be played separately or as a whole that runs around an hour in length, cover the movie from numerous angles. To name just a few, there are featurettes on the idea of “the friend zone,” transforming Ryan Reynolds into an overweight teenager, Roger Kumble’s directing style (which pretty much entails shooting every scene at various comedic pitches), and the lengthy process of script development (you might be surprised to find out just how much work went into the screenplay--it started back in 1998!). Finally, there is the original theatrical trailer and a music video for “Jamie Smiles.”|
Copyright ©2005 James Kendrick
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