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Just Friends Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/23/2005

Some women can be evil creatures.  They don’t intend to be that on purpose…but they are.  If you are a teen or a young man in your twenties, and you have a close friendship with a single female, unless you break out of that “friend zone,” you will always be stuck there.  Otherwise, you will be forever tortured by the fact that this could be your future girlfriend or wife…if only you could get out of it.  Unfortunately, some women in their teens and twenties tend to be oblivious to the fact that their male friend wants more than friendship.  They look at their male friend as if he is a brother and not a boyfriend or a sexual being.  The reason is that these women date good-looking jerks that treat them like crap, and go to their male friend to tell him all about it.  They wish that the guys they dated were more like the male friend, but the reason why they won’t date the male friend is because he isn’t good-looking.  Yes…it’s a Catch-22…but it’s reality.  I can really identify with the movie Just Friends because I have been stuck in the “friend zone” with my female friends…and most of my friends are female.

Back in 1995, Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) was a fat but nice guy who wore braces and lived in Trenton, New Jersey.  He was in a close friendship with a hot blonde cheerleader named Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart.)  The problem is that he was in love with this close friend, but she only saw him like a brother (or like a lamp, as he says.)  She tended only to date jerky jocks, and then she told Chris all about them, which tormented him further.  He told his problems to his friend Clark (Fred Ewanuick) and Clark’s girlfriend Darla (Amy Matysio), who both knew of his plight.  At a costume party, Chris decided to reveal his true feelings for Jamie, and he wrote it down in a form of a list, called “100 Reasons why Jamie is the best!”  One of the jocks grabbed a hold of the list and embarrassed Chris to the other people at the party.  He ran away and vowed never to have a friendship with a girl again.  Ten years later, Chris is a slimmed down, handsome, successful record executive for Red Bulb Records in Los Angeles.  He doesn’t have any problem getting women now, because he has stuck with his vow not to make friends with women.  His boss, KC (Stephen Root), has assigned him to sign up successful pop singer Samantha James (Anna Faris) for the label (think of her like Ashlee Simpson.  In fact, in one scene, they call her an Ashlee Simpson wannabe.)  KC has Chris try to butter her up so that she will sign.  Chris had dated Samantha in the past, but she annoys him now (she’s still in love with him though.)  He grudgingly comes with her on a cross-country flight for a promotional tour in New York.  During the flight, the idiotic girl puts tinfoil in the plane’s onboard microwave, and it starts a fire.  They have to land in an airport not far from Trenton and stay overnight.  Instead of going to a hotel, Chris decides to stay with his mom, Carol (Julie Haggarty), and brother, Mike (Christopher Marquette), at their house.  Chris takes Samantha to the local bar called The Maple Tavern.  While there, he runs into his old friends, including Clark and Darla, who are now married and have a kid.  He also runs into Jamie, who works as a waitress at the bar when she isn’t working as a substitute teacher.  The old feelings come flooding back, and he decides that he wants her back for good…and not just as a friend.  Unfortunately, despite being successful and slim, Jamie still just sees Chris as a friend, and his original shy personality comes back.  Top that with the fact that he has competition for her affection:  Dusty Lee (Chris Klein), an EMT and aspiring musician, has come back into her life.  Back in high school, Dusty went by Dusty Dinkleman, had bad acne, and was a horrible guitar player.  Ten years later, he changed his name, his acne cleared up, and he obviously got some guitar lessons, which he displays by performing for her “Jamie Smiles,” a song he had been composing back in high school.  He is also an ultra-sensitive guy who cries at hokey chick flicks, like The Notebook.  Chris is confused as to which tactic he should use…be a wuss like Dusty (or how he was in high school), or be the ladies’ man he is back in L.A.  Either way, Chris just wants to find a way out of the “friend zone.”

I am almost 31 years old, and I have had more “girl friends” in my life than girlfriends.  I am not a hot-looking man, and I am in bad need of a “Queer Eye” makeover, but I’m not butt-ugly.  The problem is that I am nice and sensitive, which makes for a great male friend.  Beyond that, women can’t see anything else.  Believe me…I realize that turnabout is fair play.  I’m sure that there are plenty of ugly to average women who have a friendship with a studly guy who just sees them as a sister (and I challenge another filmmaker to make an answer film to this one), but since I am coming from this side of the fence, these are my personal gripes.  What’s even worse though is that many women who are even average looking also put their male friends in the “friend zone.”  On average, it’s not like in the movies…you really can’t get out of the zone (believe me…I’ve tried.)  I think that there is a chemical released in their brains that clouds them from having romantic feelings for a nice guy that they are comfortable with after a while.  The trick is to at least attempt to date a woman at the beginning before you find out if the situation has turned into a friendship instead of a relationship (I’m acting like I know these things as fact…the truth is that I’m probably one of the most clueless men on the planet.)  As a disclaimer, there are exceptions to having feelings for your female friends:  no married women, no friends who are currently in a long-term relationship, and no lesbian friends.  If you do go after these women romantically, you are either a jerk yourself or just naive.

So…how was the movie as a movie?  I loved it, but probably because I could identify with it.  My friend and fellow movie critic Reggie McDaniel always says that you bring your own baggage into a movie, and I brought in a suitcase of it with me.  Roger Kumble directed the movie, using a script penned by Adam “Tex” Davis.  Kumble had done the decently entertaining remake of Dangerous Liaisons with Cruel Intentions in 1999 (along with its 2000 direct-to-video sequel, which I never saw), when he made the horrible 2002 gross-out comedy The Sweetest Thing.  This movie has its share of PG-13-rated gross-outs, but they don’t overpower the story, which is why I liked it.  I didn’t think that the fat suit Reynolds wore in the beginning of the movie was very convincing though.  I guess they couldn’t afford Rick Baker or Stan Winston to do a better fat guy makeup job.

The entire cast did a superb job.  I know that he hasn’t been a lead in many movies yet, but Reynolds has cracked me up every time.  Whenever I hear that he is in a movie, I instantly smile.  Smart is one of the few hottie actresses that can act (and I’m not blinded by her memorable scene in 2000’s Road Trip either…she can act.)  Klein is a veteran of the gross-out movies, having been in the first two American Pie movies, but his character here shows more dimensions than the one in the Pie movies.  I think that Faris is also an evolving actress.  She recently starred in Waiting with Reynolds, where she played it straight.  In this movie, she went hog-wild with the craziness, which was fun to watch.  Marquette was able to play a different character than he is known for from CBS’s “Joan of Arcadia,” which I appreciated.  Haggerty wasn’t in the movie long, but she played the same ditzy character that she always plays.

Women…if you are in a friendship with a guy…perhaps you might at least try inquiring if he has any romantic feelings for you.  He’ll probably deny it at first, but deep down, he would love nothing more than that to happen.  After you are finished with dating all of the jerks in your life…look at your male friends for the source of a loving relationship.  You might be surprised that your soulmate is a guy you’ve known all along.  Take your male friend out to see Just Friends.  Maybe you will end up with an actual boyfriend after it!


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