Just Friends

The worst possible place for any guy infatuated with a girl to be is the "friends zone."  Here, he has virtually no chance of moving forward in a relationship, and has to sit by in agony while she makes gaga eyes at other men while confiding her problems with him.  Ten years ago, this was Chris Brander's (Ryan Reynolds, Waiting..., The Amityville Horror) problem.  He was madly in love with his friend Jenny Palomino (Amy Smart, Starsky & Hutch, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton), who viewed him as nothing more than a friend.  It didn't help that he was chunky, had braces, and awful hair.  He sat by spinelessly while she dated a series of jerks.  At the end of the school year, she rebuffed him when he made his feelings known, and he fled to California. This is the setup for Just Friends, a movie that is basically one of those "teen" movies, yet all of the characters are pushing thirty.

Ten years pass, and Brander is now rich, handsome, and a jerk.  He dates supermodels and is a high-powered music executive.  His current girlfriend/client is the psychotic Samantha James (Anna Faris, Waiting..., Scary Movie 3), a publicity seeking hot girl trying to be a singer.  A series of mishaps lands him back in his hometown of New Jersey, which he has managed to avoid for a decade.  Of course, he stumbles upon Palomino, who is still hot and single, and ends up exactly where he left off.  Here is this guy, who in any other situation would be totally confident and even a jerk, reduced to acting like a moron to try to impress his high school crush.  Sounds sweet, but again, this is the typical teen movie (a genre that has thankfully died down in the past few years) so there is lot of crude jokes and humiliation.

The most amusing aspect of Just Friends is Faris' performance.  She is insane, and really has no other point in the film other than to generate laughs.  She throws herself into her role as a vapid sexually charged wannabe singer, easily manipulated and egotistical.  It's funny, but just doesn't belong.  The rest of Adam "Tex" Davis' screenplay falls flat.  Instead of just being himself, Brander tries to be everybody else in order to win Palomino's affections.  Things worsen when Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein, The United States of Leland, We Were Soldiers), another high school geek who blossomed into a dashing EMT and guitar virtuoso appears.  He also had a crush on Palomino in high school, so now Brander has some competition.

Director Roger Krumble (The Sweetest Thing, Cruel Intentions) lets thing ramble without much direction.  Just Friends feels less like a movie and more like a bunch of jokes, mostly at Reynolds' expense, strung together.  The sad part is, the jokes are not that funny.  There isn't anything here original; it's all been done before.  It's hard to root for Brander because he really is a jerk, and even Palomino does not come off too well at times.  Although the film is of standard length, the repetitive nature of the plot causes Just Friends to feel padded.  Reynolds has the snobby look down pat, but he needs to do more if he wants to make a film memorable.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 28 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content including some dialogue.

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