Let’s see if we can do this more quickly.
I’ve just watched Just Friends which is a rom-com (naturally) about a fat guy who falls for a girl in high school who sees him as just a friend. 10 years later he’s slim (it was that special kind of movie fat that’s easy to lose), successful and cynical. He’s become someone who’s careful never to get stuck in the ‘friend zone’ which means that he basically uses women. He then meets up with his high school flame again…
Since, as we know, good rom-coms are hard to find was there anything more than just optimism in my choice to watch it? Well no. For a start it stars Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart, two actors who are very likeable (individually at least, whether they have chemistry is another matter). I’d liked Reynolds from “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” and Amy Smart from films like Road Trip. Neither of which by the way was high-brow comedy so I had no expectations. Also Just Friends was directed by Roger Kumble who made Cruel Intentions (though to be fair he also made Cruel Intentions 2). So whilst my expectations weren’t up to the skies I did have reason to believe I’d enjoy it.
So what went wrong? (as you can probably tell something did). Well, let’s recap on something that I’ve called ‘The Star Wars Effect’. There’s a theory that Star Wars is responsible for big dumb special-effects-led action movies. It came along, looked like nothing before it and was a huge success. Then, so the theory goes, began a tradition of the blockbuster – focussing as we said on big action, with big flashy visuals and impressive special effects. Now what’s interesting about this is that Star Wars itself is neither as big nor as dumb as those that followed. It also had other qualities – some decent performances (Harrison Ford in particular) and a very strong, if cliched (or mythic?), story – which weren’t necessarily copied by the successors.
Well if there’s any truth in this I want to suggest a similar effect following American Pie. It wasn’t the first gross-out comedy but it was the first film I remember that brought that style of comedy to the teen rom-com. But what it also did was balance that delicately with characters you care about and real heart. So even though you have a guy sticking his dick in a pie you still end up liking the guy and not just laughing at him.
But now it seems like all rom-coms with a vaguely young cast have to have that broad comedy. Just Friends is one such movie. It’s not actually as gross as American Pie, nor is it as warm-hearted. Perhaps because they’re playing to Reynolds’ strengths, which includes a gift for wry cynicism, his character is funny but unlikeable for much of the film. I won’t say there were no laughs at all but there’s was a lot of unfunny slapstick. It left me wishing for a version of this film that would’ve been made before American Pie. With, you know, some of the subtlety left in.
Oh well, at least it was better than Cool Money – 5/10