Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is a record executive in L.A. who has avoided having to return home after being humiliated at a graduation party a decade earlier when attempting to tell his best friend Jamie (Amy Smart) that he was in love with her. Unfortunately, just before Christmas, Chris gets stranded in New Jersey with egocentric pop singer Samantha James (Anna Faris) on their way to Paris, and Chris is forced to drop in on his mother to stay the night while Samantha’s plane is repaired.
While home, Chris reconnects with a couple of his friends, including Jamie, and is eager to show her that he’s no longer the overweight, sensitive nerd that she once thought of as a brother. He’s in better shape and has a good job, but being home also brings out Chris’s long-buried insecurities, and Jamie simply isn’t impressed with the name dropping and rudeness that Chris feels like will appeal to her. He eventually drops the obnoxious personal and slowly reverts back to the “nerd” he was in high school as he tries to win Jamie’s affection. Competing for her love is Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein), a former classmate who tried to woo Jamie with song but couldn’t get past his stuttering to ever get past the first two notes. Dusty is now an EMT, sensitive and handsome and charms Jamie with his song, Jamie Smiles.
While Chris puts off taking Samantha to Paris in order to spend time with Jamie, he pushes the singer off on his brother, Mike (Chris Marquette) who does a terrible job at keeping her out of trouble. Chris and Mike’s interactions are fraught with insults and physical fighting which I probably shouldn’t have found as funny as I did.
Anna Faris has a sort of crazed, manic energy about her which helps transform Samantha into an amusing stereotype rather than just a horribly unfunny one. Chris is a rather unlikeable character until he’s finally able to shed the “success story” and just be himself around Jamie. Despite being good looking and wealthy, he’s still insecure around his unrequited crush, trying desperately to have her see him as more than just a friend. Amy Smart is cute as a button here, and you can understand why Jamie was so popular with the boys in high school. Thankfully being cute is not all that Jamie has going for her. I appreciated that Jamie was also a woman who didn’t hesitate to call out Chris for being a jerk to her just because she didn’t want to sleep with him in high school. In her mind they were friends, and that should have been enough for Chris. Men are not entitled to women, no matter how “nice” they are, and Jamie puts Chris in his place, rather than finding his jerky behavior romantic.
Reynolds and Smart are cute together, and once Chris is able to get his head out of his bottom, it becomes really easy to root for them. There are the obvious fat jokes (blech) that I could have done without, but thankfully they don’t focus too long on Chris’s prior weight problem. Some of the humor feels a bit stale now, but the physical slapstick comedy still made me laugh. I really love Ryan Reynolds in these earlier movies of his career, before he found his “schtick” and ran with it. He has a genuine quality about him, even when he’s playing a character who doesn’t really deserve much of our sympathy.
This movie isn’t great by any means, but if you want something lightweight, Just Friends is an entertaining holiday rom-com about unrequited love and being “friend-zoned” – oh, how I hate that phrase!