Just Like Heaven

The twist in Just Like Heaven is that it is a romantic comedy where one of the people in the relationship is a ghost. Uh, okay. It's based on the novel by Marc Levy, and oddly enough, its oddball premise, for the most part, works. Romantic comedies get by on plot and charisma. Just Like Heaven has Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, two extremely likable actors. Especially since Ruffalo is in his standard "aw shucks" mode and Witherspoon is a bit less perky than usual, especially as the movie progresses. In the quick prologue, the viewer learns that Elizabeth Masterson (Witherspoon, Vanity Fair, Legally Blonde 2) was a workaholic doctor. She spent so much time at work that she had no personal life, and no boyfriend. An accident in the rain leaves her 'dead.'

A month later, David Abbott (Ruffalo, Collateral, We Don't Live Here Anymore) takes a month-to-month sublet on Masterson's apartment. Something happened in his life recently, and Abbott spends all his time moping around in the apartment. Then he sees Masterson. Like a ghost, she begins appearing, berating him for what she believes is apartment squatting. Just as quickly, she disappears. Eventually, she reappears long enough to realize that something is wrong. She has very little memory about her identity, cannot pick up objects and walks through walls and furniture. Abbott believes that she is dead, and reluctantly agrees to help her find out what happened to her. This includes enlisting the help of local mystic Darryl (Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite).

Guess what happens? Abbot and Masterson, who intensely dislike each other, begin to grow on each other. Each additional clue yields shows that Masterson is more than a bossy priss, and that Abbott does more than drink beer and mope. Like the traditional ghost story, director Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, Mean Girls) and screenwriters Peter Tolan (Guess Who, Analyze That) and Leslie Dixon (Freaky Friday, Pay It Forward) slowly reveal that each person is there to do something for the other.

The premise is inherently ludicrous, but to everybody's credit, it does not come off as that bad. Witherspoon and Ruffalo have a nice subdued chemistry together, and Waters does something that most movies don't - he gives them time to talk and get to know each other. Otherwise, this is the typical generic romantic comedy with the exception that the two people cannot touch each other. There are a few gaping plot holes (Masterson kept a copy of a store receipt in her dresser, presumably with her name on it, yet later they conveniently forget it), but no more so than anything else in this genre. Late in the Just Like Heaven there are a few diatribes on the right to life. It really slows down the genial feeling of the film, not because it is right or wrong, but because this dose of seriousness and reality doesn't fit with the rest of the film.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some sexual content.

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