Just Friends (2005)

Genre(s): Comedy / Romance
New Line || PG13 - 94 minutes - $28.98 || March 7th, 2006
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2006-02-25


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Roger Kumble
Writer(s): Adam "Tex" Davis (written by)
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, Chris Klein, Christopher Marquette, Julie Hagerty, Stephen Root


Theatrical Release Date: November 23rd, 2005


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Filmmakers' Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Commentary
  • Gag Reel
  • 9 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
  • Music Video
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Stereo Surround 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Plot Outline (from DVD back cover): In high school, Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) was a shy, overweight teen with a crush on the beautiful Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). Unfortunately, Jamie thought of the good-natured Chris as "just a friend." Fast forward ten years, Chris is a suave, fit and successful music executive visiting home and looking for a little payback. Love has other plans for him, though, as he attempts to once again woo Jamie, all the whilke trying to distract the ditzy, pop-diva client (Anna Faris) he has to tow and a rival suitor (Chris Klein). Soon enough, Chris finds that romancing Jamie has not gotten any easier...

Like Meet the Parents or American Pie before it, Just Friends's central character is put into humiliating situations and we, the audience, feel sorry for the schmuck. In Parents, Ben Stiller goes to his (future) in-laws place and in attempt to impress the over protective father, he gets himself into compromising circumstance that makes him look either like an idiot, jerk or both.

Ryan Reynolds' Chris goes through the same kind of stuff, including getting into a fight with a bunch of kids and a battle of testosterones with an unbelievably schmaltzy nice guy, all the while making himself into a class A a-hole in front of his supposed true love. Even though I found parts of Just Friends to be funny, especially Anna Faris taking her role from Lost in Translation to the nth degree, but by the 90-minute mark, I had to wonder why the hell she would still want him.

Aside from my personal annoyance with the character, Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart never had the chemistry to make me believe they were the best, best, best friends nor any to be boyfriend/girlfriend. When casting these romantic-comedies, Hollywood thinks it's enough to have two good looking actors and that'd be enough, but that's not necessarily true.

Of course, there are times when it works (see: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in both Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail or Billy Crystal and Ryan in When Harry Met Sally) and when you have a great script, maybe it doesn't matter. And here, it's the screenplay that's the biggest problem. You're already behind in the game when it's a romantic-comedy with a predictable plot and even more predictable ending so you hope you have snappy dialogue in combination with chemistry of your leads and the supporting characters -- except for Anna Faris, in this case -- everyone else in Just Friends are forgettable background chatter.

Aside from some very funny scenes (perhaps the only redeeming quality), the film never really works. As a whole, it felt like a bunch of skits put together without any thought on the people filling the roles. For his part, Ryan Reynolds is a funny actor but he's falling victim to being the "it" guy in Hollywood getting great attention for movies that, at least IMO, are pretty average. It's not to say Just Friends is just a waste of time and if you're looking for a (at least) semi-entertaining flick, then this is worth a rental, otherwise, it's yet another forgettable movie.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The Just Friends DVD offers up some great features for a film that, to be honest, wasn't a big box office (nor critical) success. The menus are animated but thankfully you can use your DVD remote to skip right to the main menu...

Filmmakers' Commentary - Director Roger Kumble, writer Adam 'Tex' Davis and producers Chris Bender, Richard Brener, Cale Boyter and Jake Weiner provide their stories on the making of Just Friends. Overall, a funny track that has more entertainment value than technical, but still fun to listen to. The only problem was, these guys are seemingly good friends that they overlap each other quite a bit so it's difficult to hear what they're saying. However, you do get some neat tid bits like Ashley Scott's cameo, song selections and shooting between LA and Canada.

Gag Reel - 8-minutes of line flubs, mistakes and all around zany antics on the set. When you get a funny man like Ryan Reynolds in the mix, it's a good time and it looks like the cast and crew were having fun.

Deleted/Alternate Scenes - There are six deleted or alternate scenes including "Red Bulb Records" with Reynolds' real life fiancée, Alanis Morrisette, "Day Date", "The Cheer" shows Reynolds and Smart perform the "Cookie Monster" cheer, "Christmas Eve", where Reynolds gets further embarrassed, "Christmas" and finally an "Alternate Ending". There's no change with how the film ends with the alternate version, but it does add a little more texture to Reynold's character and how his life in L.A. is not what it used to be. In one instance, he's having a good time with three hot chicks (part of this scene is in the trailer, "Those are awesome!") but realizes it's not for him. The scenes are accompanied with optional commentary and are approximately 12-minutes total.

There are also two behind-the-scenes mini-featurettes to go with "Red Bulb Records" and "The Cheer" showing the making of each scene. I found the latter more fun as a cheerleader was hired to come up with the moves of the "Cookie Monster" cheer and teach them.

The disc has 9 featurettes, totaling 52:20, taking the viewer through each aspect of filming. Considering this is a comedy, I expected the normal stuff (like the gag reel, commentary and even deleted scenes), but these featurettes (ranging from two to eight and a half minutes) are absolute fun to watch. I only wish the cast had joined in for the commentary.

Here are summaries of each segment:
+ Tales from the Friend Zone (3:40) - Many from the cast and crew -- including the producers, the director, the 3rd assistant director and even the stillman (I guess this is the guy who takes still photos on set) -- take a trip on memory lane and discuss their experiences of being in the "friend zone", for which, each have been there. These kinds of insights are far more interesting and funny than your usual BS cast/crew interviews, so it was quite refreshing.

+ Developing Just Friends (7:34) - Based on the name, I thought this was the typical behind-the-scenes stuff, but instead there are interviews with the three guys responsible for the film: Tex "The Writer", Chris "The Producer" and Richard "The Studio Exec". Each go through how the film became a reality from inception in 1998, where it initially was going a cynical story on the friend zone, until one of them actually managed to get out of it and marry that friend (another reason was because studios didn't want that story).

+ A Director's Guide to Comedy (7:39) - Cast and crewmembers talk about director Roger Kumble's style. Although I'm sure there was the usual butt kissing, the commentators seemed to really enjoy his unusual ways; he rarely says "cut" and keeps the film rolling and not really planning things out, hoping to find the right take.

+ The Transformation (5:24) - Predictably, we get the featurette showing the process of getting Reynolds into the fat makeup and his experience inside the fat suit, which was very hot to wear and took 3 hours to apply.

+ The Body Shake (3:46) - One of the funnier moments between Reynolds and Smart gets its own featurette. Over the span of more than three minutes, you can find out the difficulty of getting the "Body Shake" just right. Kumble, the maniacal comic he is, wanted writer Adam Davis to show them how this was done with the producer.

+ It's Friggin' Cold (4:55) - An entire featurette covering the coldness in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (doubling for New Jersey) where, depending on who you talked to, the temperature got down to -50 below. Aside from the cast and crew getting cold but the camera mechanisms needed hot packs to keep 'em working.

+ A Writer's Journey (8:30) - Screenwriter Adam 'Tex' Davis takes us through his big shining day where he's preparing for his part as a metal banger extra. The process takes him from wardrobe to hair (getting extensions), then makeup, and finally filming (the scene where Faris sings at the Metal Shop and gets pelted with trash).

+ A Disaster in the Making (8:26) - No, they're not talking about the film, it's a look at the major -- and most expensive piece -- action sequence as Faris destroys a Christmas decorated home. There was actually quite a bit of work done including pyrotechnics and the planning involved.

+ The Reshoots (2:26) - It's actually reshoot, a single reshoot of the ending. Despite testing well with audiences (supposedly), they decided to redo the ending as they felt Anna's character didn't need an arc (and so soon). You can read my description of this alternate ending above.

Music Video - Chris Klein as Dusty performs his sappy love song, "Jamie Smiles" in this, in what I consider, spoof music video for soundtracks. In it, Dusty pops in and out at the most inopportune times as Chris tries to get closer to Jamie (and Jamie, of course, loves the song). Don't know why, I normally find these videos dumb and very choppy, trying to intercut clips from the movie, but this one I found very funny.

You can also find a theatrical trailer and other previews.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Picture: Just Friends is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 1.85 aspect ratio, and looks like... any other romantic comedy or any other non-artsy movie you've seen before. The colors are fairly toned down even though it takes place during the Christmas holiday.

Sound: The disc has the usual Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and regular stereo surround. The Dolby Digital is clear and works fine for the type of film. The vocals comes primarily through the central stream, though during Chris's voiceover, mind-talk, it utilizing each speaker.



.::OVERALL::.

Just Friends might not have been a good comedy, this DVD certainly makes it a worthwhile rental or, if the price is right, purchase. I actually enjoyed the DVD more than the feature film itself with fun and informative featurettes and an entertaining commentary track. If you've liked Ryan Reynolds's films in the past, then you'll find this DVD to your liking. If not, give it at least a rental, it's at least worth that.