March 11, 2013

Just Friends (2005)
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, and Chris Klein

Comments:   And now we come to a first.

Just Friends is the first movie on this list that I actually had no intention of including on my countdown.  In fact, up until four days ago I had never even seen it before.  In even more fact, up until two months ago, I had never even HEARD of it before.  This is one of those movies that came out between the years 2001-2006 when (because my wife and I were raising babies) I really didn't ever go to a movie theater. It fell smack dab in the middle of my dead zone when I had no idea what was going on in the world of movies.

Well naturally, you know what happened next.  The minute I started posting my "200 Underloved Movies" countdown, friends of mine and readers of mine began flinging movie recommendations at me left and right.  All of a sudden movies I had never heard of before came hurtling my way.  "Hey watch this, it's awesome."  "Hey you will love that, it's quirky."  "Hey check this out, I am the only person who likes it but I bet you will too." "Hey watch this, it stars Burt Reynolds as a black voodoo priest."  

I have been posting this list for two months now, and you should see how many recommendations I have received from my readers.  In fact, at this point I think my recommendations list is up to about a hundred.  And I am trying my best to watch every one of them.  Because, you know, every so often you stumble onto a movie that you had never heard of before, but you see for the first time and you think is just awesome.  And that is a fun experience.  

Discoveries like that are the reason why people watch movies in the first place.

Well this week I hit the first reader recommendation that I really loved.  

My friend Michael Feeney wrote to me about four weeks ago.  He saw that I had written that I was a Chris Klein fan in my Election review, and he mentioned to me, "Hey if you like Chris Klein you should really check out a movie called Just Friends.  He plays the most amazing douchebag boyfriend.  In fact, he has made a nice little career playing douchebag boyfriends the last couple of years.  But Just Friends is probably the best of them."

Hmm, well now this was interesting.  See, I had never heard of Just Friends before.  In fact, I looked it up on IMDB and nothing in its description looked even remotely familiar to me.  Ryan Reynolds?  Amy Smart?  Anna Faris?  Chris Klein?  Wow, sounds like a murderer's row of B-level romantic comedy actors.  Sounds like a winner.  I mean, come on, Julie Hagerty as the kid's mom?  Julie Hagerty from AIRPLANE?  Where did they dig her up?  I haven't see Julie Hagerty in a movie in more than twenty years.

But hey, Feeney said it was a funny movie.  And he is the guy who once recommended Arrested Development to me, and now that is one of my all time favorite shows.  And I am more than happy to see what Chris Klein looks like as a scummy douchebag boyfriend.  So I rented it through Netflix last weekend, and my wife and I sat down to watch it and I gave it a chance.

Well since I am writing about Just Friends on my countdown, I am sure you can guess what I thought of it.  I LOVED it.  And it is funny because I wasn't really expecting to.  This is a theme that you will read over and over if you go down and you read the IMDB user reviews that I posted below, by the way, that is the reaction that a lot of people have to this movie.  Like most people, I expected it to just be a silly little forgettable romantic comedy.  That is exactly what it looks like from the DVD menu and the trailer and the cast list.  Yay, it's got Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit and he gets to play a fat guy.  He gets to play the fat guy who tries to get the hot girl.

But nope.  That isn't what this movie is like at all.

Once Just Friends started, I found myself laughing.  And I never found myself NOT laughing.  I found myself smiling or even chuckling out loud almost throughout the entire movie.  And what is funny is that I heard my wife laughing at pretty much the entire movie too.  And we almost NEVER like the same type of comedy.  Because of that, I suspect this is one of those rare movies that I bet almost anyone would find funny.

Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit, who basically looks like if Jonah Hill and anybody had a baby

Just Friends is the story of a guy named Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds).  

In high school, Chris was a fat guy.  You know the type.  He was the sad fat guy who spent most of his time alone in his room, thinking about girls.  Thinking about girls he could never get.  Thinking about cute girls.  Pining for them.

In particular, he pined for his best friend Jamie (Amy Smart).  Who, naturally, was the hottest girl in school, and who, naturally, hung out with him all the time.  

And, because this is the way it kind of works in the real world, had long ago put Chris into the dreaded "friend zone."

Jamie:  I'm so glad we're friends.  I don't know what I'd do without your friendship.
Chris:  Shit.

Jamie thinks of Chris as a friend.  But Chris didn't want to be a friend, he wants to hook up with her.  He just doesn't know how to do it.  

And, of course, since Chris is a shy awkward fat kid with very little self esteem, there is very little chance he is ever going to get out of the friend zone.

As long as the two of them are teenagers, as long as the two of them are still stuck together in high school, he is always going to be trapped here in sad lonely friend prison.

Chris Brander, aka Johnny Blue Balls

At this point the movie jumps ahead ten years.  Chris is now 28 years old, and in the past ten years his life has managed to change significantly.

For starters, he is no longer fat.  Over the past ten years he has figured out how nutrition works.  And he has figured out how exercise works.  And he is now a wealthy young handsome music producer living in Los Angeles.

Great success

But the biggest difference in Chris now is with women.  Because at this point in his life, he can get pretty much any woman that he wants.  After all, he's rich.  He's handsome.  He lives in Southern California.  He works in the music industry.  He's single.  When women in L.A. see the kind of money he is pulling down, and the kind of car that he drives, they practically throw themselves at him.

It helps that, because of his disastrous experience with Jamie in high school, Chris knows all too well that you never let a woman put you into "the friend zone" anymore.  He knows that, and he never lets it happen.  These days when he sees a woman that he wants, he just moves right in for the kill.

Basically, now that Chris is handsome and he knows how the game works, he is getting more ass than a toilet seat.


Even ass he doesn't particularly want

So this is the premise of the movie.  A fat kid grows up and slims down, and he is a hit with women now, but he still thinks about his best friend that had never been able to hook up with back in high school.  It still haunts him that he had never been able to... shall we say... close escrow with that one.

And this sets the stage for Chris winding up back in his hometown in New Jersey for Christmas.

I don't want to give away too much of the movie, since I enjoyed it so much the first time and I bet you will too.  But you can pretty much guess what happens from here.  Chris the successful music producer goes home for Christmas, and he runs into Jamie.  And he immediately decides that this time he is going to seal the deal and he is going to hook up with her.

Unfortunately, he finds that hooking up with Jamie is going to be a lot more difficult than he thought it would be.

Because there are certain obstacles in his way.

Like Dusty

The first obstacle that he runs into is yes, you guessed it.  The reason that this movie was recommended to me.  Her douchebag boyfriend Chris Klein.

Chris Klein plays a sensitive young man named Dusty Dinkelman.  And, well, Jamie LOVES Dusty.  I mean, who wouldn't love Dusty?  I mean the guy plays the guitar.  The guy writes love poetry.  The guy volunteers at a hospital and does charity work with old people.  The guy leads a children's choir at church and quotes verse about Jesus.

How could anyone possibly not love Dusty?

Dusty singing one of his love songs

Chris comes home for Christmas and he realizes that he has competition for Jamie's affection.  He has competition from Dusty.  Who, as you can imagine, is really not all that he appears to be.  He is just playing the the exact same type of game that Chris is.  He is playing a role and trying to stay out of the friend zone too.

The only problem is that Dusty just happens to be a lot better at it.

Whoops, wrong movie.  But same deal.

If Chris Klein was a gay porn star he would be Dusty Bottoms

So that is the first problem that Chris faces.  He will never be able to hook up with Jamie because Dusty has already gotten there.  And Dusty is really good at this.

The second problem that Chris faces is one of regression.  You see, the minute he came home, Chris has sort of started to regress.  

This will be an unfamiliar concept to anyone reading this who is under the age of 20, but it is kind of a simple fact of life that if you ever come back to your childhood home when you are an adult, you will inevitably regress into the teenager you once were.  That's just the way that it works.  The minute you set foot in the house you grew up in, you immediately turn back into a teenager.

And unfortunately that is exactly what happens to Chris.

The minute he gets back into his childhood home, it doesn't matter that he is now CHRIS BRANDER MILLIONAIRE HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER.  It doesn't matter that he now owns a giant mansion in Beverly Hills, or that he sleeps with hundreds of women a year.  No, the minute he sets foot in his childhood bedroom, he once again becomes Chris Brander the fat kid who never had a chance with Jamie.  He turns back into the teenager who has random slap fights every ten minutes with his brother.

And this is where most of the humor in the movie comes in.  It is Chris regressing to what his life was like back when he was a teenager.

Slap fight!

There are some other subplots in the movie that help drive the story too.  In particular there is one involving Anna Faris as a self centered pop star who Chris is supposed to be escorting on a trip to Paris.  But I never got much out of that storyline.  I mean, Anna Faris is funny and all, and most of the scenes involving her in the movie are funny (the toothpaste scene in particular made me laugh).  But Anna's storyline is more or less a distraction from the rest of the movie.  To me the real movie here is Chris regressing into his pathetic teenage self, and Chris not having a prayer of trying to compete with sensitive guitar playing Dusty.

Oh, and of course the slap fights between Chris and his little brother.  To me those are the highlight of the movie.  In fact when Feeney recommended this movie to me that was exactly what he pointed out.  He said that the fights between the two brothers are hilarious.  And he was right.

I am actually going to go back and rewatch Just Friends this weekend, just because I want to watch all the slap fights between the two brothers again. They are really funny.  I haven't seen slapstick that funny in a movie in a long time.  

Chris about one second before he beats the shit out of his little brother again

All in all, this is one of those recommendations that I am thrilled I received.  I had never heard of Just Friends before, it just came completely out of the blue, and I watched it and loved it.  So if you have any more recommendations you think belong on this list, please send them in.  If I watch one and I like it I will probably write about it.

Especially if it includes a hockey fight against children

Although I still can't figure out where they dug Julie Hagerty up for this movie.  I mean, I have always been a big fan of hers. I loved her in Airplane and I loved her in Lost in America (which I will be writing about soon, so get ready).  But I thought she had pretty much retired from movies about twenty years ago.  I love that she just randomly shows up as Mrs. Brander in Just Friends.  And of course I love that she is still funny.  It has been at least two decades since the last time I have seen her in a movie, but she just randomly shows up in this one as the mom and she actually steals a couple of scenes.  I guess the legends never die.

It's a damn good thing you don't know how much she hates your guts

The lesson to be learned here?  Julie Hagerty should really be in more movies.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Just Friends:

Unexpectedly hilarious - 25 December 2007
To be honest I wasn't expecting much from this film, I didn't recognise any of the actors and I was just in the mood for some rom-com generic stuff cos it's Christmas Day and I'm bored! But this film actually made me laugh out loud, beating Knocked Up, Hot Fuzz etc EASILY! People seem to find the song at the beginning (not a spoiler!) the funniest bit, but if you don't, don't be discouraged, keep watching, it gets better and better. I laughed like a donkey at some of the later scenes.

Three fantastic comic performances from Chris Klein, Christopher Marquette, especially in the scenes between the brothers, they had great chemistry, and finally Ryan Reynolds, because he carried this movie, and I hate the Notebook!

This is my first review, and the fact that I've bothered to write one to convince you to go see it totally proves that this is a film worth seeing!

under the radar - 3 February 2007
A lot of movies fly under the radar and end up crashing and burning ....usually for good reason. Just Friends isn't one of those although this one not only flew under the radar but was darn near invisible. Like many others we came upon this one by chance and we're glad we did. Yes it gets a little mopey and predictable at the end but only certain movies can actually make you feel like you were there saying the same stupid things to those same people you most wanted to impress. The acting was certainly a cut above other flicks of the same genre and it makes one wonder just where the heck are these people now? All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this little gem to anyone.

A comic gem - 22 April 2011
This is the most hilarious movie since The In-laws with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. Since it is the story of a fat guy whose goes back to win his high school crush, you think it will be a somewhat predictable plot, but it isn't. Every scene has you busting out laughing, helplessly. I raised 5 sons and the interplay between the brothers is spot on. One scene where Ryan Reynolds is on the phone and first his mother and then his brother get on the extension and start talking to him happened at our house to my oldest son. Best of all was the hockey game and aftermath. Ryan Reynolds has absolutely perfect comic timing and his facial expressions are priceless. Happy romantic endings are always good, too.

Dinkleman is freakin hilarious - 21 June 2008
I thought this movies was pretty darn good but Chris Klein made it for me. I like him in American Pie and American Pie 2 but for the most part I thought some of his other movies are pretty lame. Rollerball anyone? I never saw him playing a character like this but his character really made the movie for me. Obviously Amy Smart and Ryan Reynolds are good but Klein's scenes had me reeling. "Anybody wanna sing xmas carols to celebrate the birth of our lord"? Freakin hilarious. Overall this movies was alright but Dinkleman will go right up there as one of the most well played douchebags in movies. Anyways, I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to someone who wants a laugh. Also, Ryan Reynold's brother who has been in other stuff (just can't think of the movies right now) was also really good.

Hilarious all the way through - 5 December 2005
If you laughed plenty at Wedding Crashers and Old School, you'll love this one too. I never put my two bits in on a review but to see this with a 5.6 rating is beyond me. The fact that I have to write ten lines of text here just to express my opinion is also beyond me but hey, rules are rules.

I have to step up and say something for a movie that more than deserves kudos. Ryan Reynolds is spot on and the supporting cast steps up as well. I'd say Anna Faris almost steals the show as his bumbling bimbo client who he gets stuck with in his home town.

I'll say I didn't go with any expectations but to be honest, I don't think it matters. This movie is brutally funny and I laughed the whole way through and the whole way out of the theater. My sides were in stitches which is a rarity in the crap comedies Hollywood has been serving up these days. This is a great holiday movie, a great date movie and just a plain all out laugh fest. About 200 people in the theater agreed as opposed to most of the reviewers on here who must have been born with a stick up their...

Comedy for the sake of Comedy - 15 November 2010
'Just Friends' surprised me off the bat with its' great cast, off-the-wall antics and comic proficiency. Personally, I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to humor; I watch comedies to laugh, nothing more. 'Just Friends' serves that purpose with utmost effectiveness. The quality of the humor is almost spoof-like. The jokes are loud, colorful, and zany, with the comic timing to match. Fans of David Zucker and similar film-makers will be pleased. Of course, to make a movie so effectively funny, something else must suffer; the plot and the progression of the movie is arguably weak. However it leaves nothing to be desired. Like I said, I watch a comedy to laugh, and in that regard plot is not important. It is almost heartwarming sometimes to watch this film and be entertained on such a pure and uninhibited level. The creators of this movie really want to make you laugh and feel good, and that's what a good comedy oughta be about. If you are like me and just want to laugh, put 'Just Friends' on the top of your "To-See" list.

Very Pleasant Surprise - 9 April 2006
OK, I'll be honest. When my pal said, "I've brought a good movie for a laugh." The first thing that went through my head, looking at the cover, was 'another boring chick flick'. BOY was I wrong. I swear at some points in this movie I did almost wet myself a little bit. Now, I am not the type of person who sees a film that makes me giggle a bit and then decide that because i laughed a lot, its a great movie. I'm not. I just love the fact that the situations are so real. Everyone can relate to the topic and the humour comes from genuine original slapstick, the likes of which I haven't seen done this well since "meet the parents", and of course 100% certified fresh young comedians of today.

Characters: Ryan Reynolds is fantastic in everything he does. Although I imagine he's a "love him or hate him" kind of actor (very similar to Jim Carrey, although I have never laughed as hard at Jim Carrey as I do with Ryan). His completely inimitable way of delivering these comic lines combined with raw physical performances that would put Jim Carrey to shame just gets me in the funny bone every time.

Anna Farris I have always been wary of. It's a big gamble starting your mainstream career in "Scary Movie" which is an obvious typecast. However, Anna's performance is excellent. She really takes that role and just when you think she can't shock you any more, she does.

Amy Smart doesn't really have a comedic role to play in this movie, which is a shame because as a comedic actress she really is quite something and pleasantly surprised me with her performance as the insane helicopter pilot in "Rat Race". Amy is the normality check in the movie when the other characters are getting a bit too crazy (I often find that insanity ruins good comedy).

Chris Marquette plays Ryan's brother. Somebody give this guy a medal. The play fighting that goes on between Chris and Ryan is the greatest on screen chemistry I have seen in a long time. You do really link to and believe the brotherly bond.

Chris Klein. Chris used to bore me. I though he was your standard pretty boy actor that could get away with an unchallenging side role in a comedy (American Pie), but this movie changed all that for me. I'm actually smiling here just remembering some of the faces he pulls during this movie.

To wrap up... If you're a Ryan Reynolds fan or like a feel good movie or just plain want to see something funny, then don't miss this film. It guarantees a giggle or 2 and really leaves you feeling great. I loved it.  

* My favorite quotes from Just Friends:

Chris: Mom! I need my skates to show off my talents!

Chris' Mom: [Starts dialing while Chris is on the phone] Joyce? Joyce?
Chris: Mom, I'm on the phone.
Chris' Mom: Chris? What are you doing over at Joyce's?
Chris: No Mom, I'm in the living room ten feet away from you, and I'm on the phone.
Chris' Mom: Oh. Well, while I have you on the phone, dear, what would you like for dinner? We have a choice between chicken chow mein or potroast.

Jamie Palamino: We need to talk about what you wrote. Is that really how you feel?
Chris: I don't know. Maybe. Why?
Jamie Palamino: Because that's the nicest thing anyone's ever written me.
Chris: It was?
Jamie Palamino: Yes. I love you Chris...
[goes to kiss him. Chris goes for her lips and she moves to his cheek]
Jamie Palamino:  .. like a brother!
Chris: Hmm?
Jamie Palamino: We're friends right?
Chris: For sure!

Mike: Dude I think she left you hanging.
Chris: It's probably just an important businees call. Get off the phone.
Mike: What, the bar ran out of curly fries?
Chris: Get off the phone!

Chris: So that's why she went with Dusty. She wants a sensitive guy... more like the old me. Well, if she wants Mr. Rogers, then I'm going to show her the biggest pussy she's ever seen.

[messages left on voicemail]
Samantha James: Hey Chris, it's Samantha. I talked to my sponsor and I owe you an apology.
[phone beeps]
Samantha James: It's Samantha. Call me!
[phone beeps]
Samantha James: It's Samantha!
[phone beeps]
Chris' Mom: Hello Joyce? Joyce?

* My favorite scene in Just Friends:

Any of the slap fights between Ryan Reynolds and his little brother are just classic.  I can't imagine how much fun those two guys were having when they were making this movie.  

Just Friends at the IMDB

Just Friends at Wikipedia

Back to 200 Movies That Deserve More Love