Just Friends Review
Just Friends, the latest entry in the downward spiral that is Roger Kumble’s directorial career (from Cruel Intentions to Cruel Intentions 2 to The Sweetest Thing to this), is a curiously backdated affair. It sees Ryan Reynolds heading back to the teen movie environs of Van Wilder Party Liaison following more “mature” turns in Blade Trinity and the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror. It has Anna Faris watering down her spoilt brat superstar from Lost in Translation. It offers Chris Klein another bland love interest role following the wrong moves of Rollerball and whatever else has occupied his time post-American Pie. And it takes the gross-out vein of comedy mined so well by the Farrelly Brothers (and others beside) and misconstrues it into a shallow, morally dubious love story that places looks over personality. Any advances in the genre which may have been made in the past few years – however muddled/misguided some of the results may have been – appear to have disappeared into the ether.
And yet this backdated-ness feels like a minor quibble within the larger scheme of things. Whilst it no doubt chides the viewer, there’s also the plot to contend with – a mixture of honey-soaked small town nostalgia and the tale of the fat kid who’s since lost his weight and caring personality to boot – and slim satire. (So slim in fact that the term satire really should come with inverted commas.) Moreover, the trajectory of the story – banal romance between newly-toned Reynolds and his school days friend/wannabe love interest – is so obvious, yet also so protracted, that it really does become a chore to concentrate. Add to this a level of filmmaking prowess which ranges from the poor to the very bad (do we really need another film in which the lead gets hit in the mouth by an ice hockey puck via a POV shot?) and it makes you wonder why Just Friends should be worth anybody’s time, even those with the lowest expectations.
Indeed, we arrive at a film which leaves me wanting to conclude this review with nothing more than a string of less than complementary adjectives. It’s flimsy, obvious, easy, dubious, incoherent, smoothed out to the point of banality, and the list goes on and on. Watch the film yourself, hate it as much as I do and come up with your own terms of abuse – there’s plenty more to choose from.
(Incidentally, the two out of ten rating comes courtesy of Julie Hagerty, Just Friends’ single gem.)
Clearly someone likes Just Friends as Momentum’s UK release comes with all the “special edition” trimmings. The picture quality is just as you’d expect from a new release - excellent contrast and clarity, original aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced, and the rest – and the soundtrack (present in its intended DD5.1) does much the same. All told, the film comes across just as Kumble would hope, no doubt.
As for extras, the disc is similarly impressive, yet it’s hard to imagine just who would wish to sit through the array on offer here. Central to it all is a 58-minute(!) ‘making of’ which takes in seemingly ever aspect of the film’s production, chatting as it does to everyone from the leads to the writers and all those in-between. Essentially, it’s nothing more than the standard EPK guff, though we do find out some interesting pieces of info here and there, such as the fact that reshoots were rife following initial test screenings.
Elsewhere, we have the usual combination of theatrical trailer and outtakes, plus a handful of deleted scenes, an alternative ending, a music video and a section titled, somewhat erroneously, “stuff you might like” which chucks in everything missed elsewhere. (Note, however, that the commentary which appears on the Region 1 disc hasn't made the transition to this particular release.)