Making the Grades
Starring in the gross-fest Waiting... earlier in 2005, actor Ryan Reynolds next tackles the lead role of Chris in this film, borrowing from the styles of Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, and Ben Stiller.
Chris (no last name is given) is some sort of executive for a recording company (no job description is given). His employer sends him to LA to escort Samantha James (Anna Faris), an obnoxious female singer, back to New York. But after the bubble-headed pop star sets the microwave on fire in the corporate jet, their lame craft is forced to land (as fate would have it) just outside of her chaperone's hometown in Jersey.
It's been ten years since he last set foot in the place. Having grown up as a fat nerd in high school, and being told by the love of his young life that they would always be "just friends," Chris hasn't had a compelling reason to beat a path back home.
Returning now with the bleached blonde under his arm, the slimmed-down wannabe who has upgraded his status to important music producer, decides the unexpected overnight stop may be the perfect opportunity to reconnect with his former flame Jamie (Amy Smart) and some other old friends. He also drops in on his scatterbrained mother and brother Dusty (Chris Klein)... mostly because he needs a somewhere to stay.
When he finds his high school love at a local watering hole, Chris shows off his loser to schmoozer (perhaps "user" would be more accurate) transformation. Although the waitress is amazed at how dashing her once bulging buddy has become, she detects a scent of pompousness emanating from the man.
Her cold conclusion to their reunion meeting sets up the contest for the rest of the film. Desperate to win Jamie's heart, Chris reverts to juvenile tactics. Meanwhile, he off-loads his duty to baby-sit the spoiled artist to his younger sibling, leaving Dusty the responsible for keeping the sex-crazed Samantha occupied and out of trouble.
It's a lofty ambition to try to make an audience believe that a barely tolerable individual is capable of attracting the nicest girl in town. Unfortunately Reynolds' performance--which isn't any more convincing than the artificially bloated face he wears in the opening scenes--isn't quite up to the job. Yet it wouldn't be fair to blame him for all of Just Friends' problems. In truth, the script serves up a feast of such unlikable characters, making it difficult to laugh or sympathize with them.
And it will be just as difficult to justify bringing your kids along for the "fun." Anna Faris' character is seen in a poster pose wearing only whipped cream and strategically placed cherries, while her rabid desire for men or women is frequently used to generate humor. Innuendo and many slang terms for sexual intercourse pepper the dialogue as well.
The mean spirited film also supplies abundant violent content, with women and men physically and sexually assaulting each other in the name of comedy. Despite a few vague messages about not judging others by their appearances and letting go of pride, the movie doesn't engage viewers enough to even want to be Just Friends.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Just Friends.
Chris was the target of ridicule while he was in high school. Now that he is a successful music producer, how has he changed? How can a desire to seek revenge turn a person who has been bullied into a bully?
This film depends on anti-social behavior and bad choices to generate comedy. What is the difference between helping others see the possible humor in previous mistakes versus laughing at their bad decisions?