The "friend zone" is a concept familiar to nice guys the world over. They frequently stumble into this platonic purgatory by failing to make a move on their crush, ending up just her friend instead. So viewers weren't wrong to hope that Just Friends might be a deceptively shrewd, lightly comic exploration of this phenomenon. Alas, every element of the production instantly dashes those hopes. Roger Kumble brings along the same shrill, over-the-top directing style that almost worked in The Sweetest Thing. Here, with less appealing actors, his attempt at Farrelly-style pratfalls is just plain irritating. Ryan Reynolds is far better at sarcastic than sympathetic, and both his polar-opposite characterizations -- the insecure brace-face from high school and the over-slick Los Angeles golden boy -- are too extreme to root for. But "extreme" doesn't come close to accurately summarizing the performance of Anna Faris, whose work as a trashy, self-involved pop diva wouldn't even cut it for a Scary Movie sequel, let alone remind anyone of her subtler celebrity lampoon in Lost in Translation. The fact that she's along for the ride at all, crashing the impromptu homecoming of Reynolds' Chris Brander, results from apparent insecurity that the film didn't already contain enough volume-11 mugging. But perhaps the most crass decision, from a marketing perspective, is that a completely inorganic Christmas setting was grafted onto the story, just to get a holiday release date that could fool viewers into higher grosses. Just Friends is a holiday movie about as much as it's a costume drama. However you choose to characterize it, it's a forgettable addition to that genre.
by Derek Armstrong review