Just Friends Movie Review
The movie starts in 1995. Chris (Reynolds) and Jamie (Smart) are childhood friends, who have just graduated high school. Chris chooses the night of her graduation party to confess his love for her. Long story short, Chris's love for Jamie gets broadcast for everyone to hear, and she responds by telling Jamie that she loves him. Like a brother.
Fast forward 10 years. Chris has shed the extra pounds, lost the Robert Reed man-perm, and is living the good life in Los Angeles, hobnobbing with celebrities and sleeping with starlets. His latest assignment for his record label is to land the next album from Samantha James (Faris), an amorous, vacuous pop singer whose aspirations to be the next Joni Mitchell tell us plenty about her mental state.
Desperate to land Samantha's talents, whatever the cost to his manhood or sanity, Chris hops on her private plane to Paris. Due to Samantha's stupidity, the plane is forced to land just outside of Trenton, New Jersey, Chris's old stomping grounds. Without any options, Chris and Samantha are forced to spend the Christmas holiday with his mom and younger brother while the plane is repaired.
Here is the point when we realize the movie is in a race against time. Chris is not happy to stay in his old town -- the site of his teenage scarring -- so why would he not stay in a hotel? Or seeing how most big companies have expense accounts, couldn't the two have chartered a plane? Well, if they do that, then Chris can't reunite with Jamie, who is working at the local bar while she gets her teaching degree. And then Chris can't hatch his alpha male plan to get back at Jamie, which we all know will have no staying power. With such a glaring plot hole 15 minutes in, the movie's delicate fabric won't hold forever. (Let's not go into why the movie is set during Christmas, or how long it takes to repair a plane.)
There are moments of gut-busting goofiness here, with Chris watching The Notebook with his mother and Faris's disaster at open mic night two highlights. Still, Adam Davis's script pushes the activity along without any consideration for common sense, both on screen and in regards to the overall plot structure. The movie veers from slapstick to relationship drama to coming of age angst, never finding a fit. Characters get shuffled about to fit Davis's moods, so Reynolds's glib charm, Smart's endearing cuteness, and Faris's sex-fueled craziness feel more out of place as the movie plods along. And as Davis piles yet another obstacle in front of Chris and Jamie's inevitable union, you wonder why they both don't sign up for Match.com.
Davis's contrived set-ups and his inability to smoothly transition from scene to scene are deadly, but not as much as his inability to justify why Jamie is the romantic end-all for Chris. Yes, Jamie is stunning, but no one harbors a crush for almost 20 years based on looks alone. For Davis and director Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions), there's nothing else, which underscores Just Friends' laziness and its blind desire to move along the proceedings. When your movie hinges on people falling love, such treatment short changes the characters and the audience. Maybe in this case, Chris and Jamie just being friends wasn't such a bad idea.