Director Roger Kumble is wise enough to allow Ryan Reynolds to go hog wild in displaying his talent for slapstick and silly comedy. Reynolds has always had a talent for comedy, except he’s always been restrained such as films like “Van Wilder.” In “Just Friends” he seems to be allowed to go as ridiculous as he wants, and manages to derive a ton of laughs, with mere facial expressions and delivery of one-liners. From there mere opening shot of a young version of the film’s character singing in to a mirror, except grossly overweight and donning curly hair, is an instant laugh grabber, and Reynolds doesn’t seem to let up throughout the movie.
While Reynolds shtick isn’t always a home run, “Just Friends” allows him to work outside of his good looks, letting him be as much of a cartoon as he can, while also portraying a character with a tragic undercurrent. While “Just Friends” is a hilarious holiday based comedy, it’s also about a guy touching base with his old home, and learning that he never quite grew up, despite losing a ton of weight and achieving success in the outside world. “Just Friends” manages to be entertaining enough to invoke enough utter hysterics and numerous laugh out loud moments from me to warrant repeated viewings.
It’s an unlikely Christmas film that delves in to the past and how it can be painful to revisit. “Just Friends” is pretty harmless fun that relies on the cast’s vast ability to be pretty and funny at the same time. Anna Faris is a gorgeous pop star who also is immensely insane underneath the glitz, and Chris Klein even derives a lot of laughs from his antagonist, the slimy Dusty Dinkleman, who’s convinced his entire town he’s an all around nice guy. Chris Marquette is also a memorable addition to the film as Reynolds’ young obnoxious brother. The two kick each other in the guts and throw one another around, and they pull off the physical comedy without fault.
“Just Friends” embraces its silliness and still comes out a mostly hilarious experience, relying on its cast to sell what could have been a dud of a film. Whether it’s the hockey scene where Reynolds screams at a kid, the disastrous three way call sequence, or Faris falling off a mall balcony into a crowd of onlookers, Kumble places the weight of the laughs on the cast, and they succeed with flying colors. Not every gag lands, but the majority of them is hysterical. “Just Friends” works as a definite antidote to typical holiday films, offering an off beat yet genuinely sweet romance comedy, paired with sharp slapstick comedy.