2 stars (out of four)
The words "fat suit," "high school" and "from the director of 'Cruel Intentions'" do not bode well for a movie starring that dude from "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place," but "Just Friends" isn't that bad.
It's this bad: Ryan Reynolds stars as Chris Brander, a womanizing Los Angeles music exec charged with turning ex-girlfriend/pinup girl/socialite lunatic Samantha James (Anna Faris) into a pop sensation. Chris wasn't always such a smooth operator.
We learn through extensive fat-suit flashbacks that, in high school, he was overweight and out of touch, believing that his best friend and Garden State hottie Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart) might want to be more than the dreaded Just Friends.
Shot down after high school graduation and humiliated in front of letter-jacket jocks, Chris left New Jersey, never to return until, en route to a recording session in Paris, Chris and Samantha's private plane makes an emergency landing smack dab in the middle of the state.
What are the odds?
And get this: Jamie Palamino, former cheerleader extraordinaire, still lives at home with her folks, just a small-town girl, livin' in a lonely world.
Thus begins Chris' quest to win her heart.
And thus begins our quest to survive shameless comic coincidences and predictable changes of heart, because if nothing else, we will not laugh at things that aren't funny.
But then there's Reynolds, gunning for the Jim Carrey Award for Extreme Facial Expressions and blessed with great timing and an oddball, off-kilter sarcastic edge.
If he'd just stop trying so hard take it down a notch, relax a fairly interesting character might peek through the fast-talking funny boy act.
And Faris whoa. As the blond bimbo actress in "Lost in Translation," Faris drew excited speculation that she was playing Cameron Diaz.
And here she's clearly channeling Britney Spears (with her mentally unhinged sexuality and off-key trill), Ashlee Simpson (with her "I want to rock" bubblegum sneer) and My-First-Guitar Barbie. And doing it well.
But alas, even with young talent, director Roger Kumble and writer Adam Davis rely way too heavily (no pun intended) on the fat-suit joke and titular impasse overlooking the golden rule of Hollywood comedy: When Gwyneth suits up, it's funny; when reality TV women play fat to test unsuspecting men, it's vindicating; but when Tyra Banks climbs into a fat suit for her daytime talk show, the joke is dead.
Directed by Roger Kumble; written by Adam "Tex" Davis; photographed by Anthony B. Richmond; edited by Jeff Freeman; production designed by Robb Wilson King; music by Jeff Cardoni; produced by Chris Bender, JC Spink, Michael Ohoven, William Vince, Bill Johnson. A New Line Cinema release; opens Wednesday. Running time: 1:34. MPAA rating: PG-13 (sexual content including some dialogue).
Chris Brander - Ryan Reynolds
Jamie Palamino - Amy Smart
Samantha James - Anna Faris
Dusty - Chris KleinCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times