Just Like Heaven is the rare film that starts out broad, obvious and overly familiar, then develops subtlety as it moves along, ultimately winding up as a sweet -- if not distinctly memorable -- romantic comedy. A movie about a spirit haunting her former apartment can't exactly be "realistic," but Reese Witherspoon's sitcom-like reaction to her new circumstances is what gives the first act its eyeball-rolling broadness. Director Mark S. Waters stages this portion as an extended "meet cute" between Elizabeth (Witherspoon) and David (Mark Ruffalo), the apartment's new tenant, so of course the two bicker and display the mutual comedic disdain that always presages movie romances -- even though he might be crazy, and she might be dead. It's when Waters steps out of this lazy opening that the film starts to take on more dimension, as the audience learns what happened to Elizabeth, and what's at stake going forward. Even the soundtrack gets focused down from a selection of randomly used, disjointed songs to something more comfortable and organic. (And yes, it does feature the Cure song that inspired the title, albeit a cover by Katie Melua). Just Like Heaven loads up on the classic elements of romantic comedy, and sometimes overloads, such as putting two people in the role of David's buddy, thereby leaving both Donal Logue and Jon Heder (in his first role after Napoleon Dynamite) without enough to do. As for the leads, they acquit themselves well enough, but one senses they'd have been better if this material weren't essentially beneath them. (Ruffalo has always been a critical darling, and at the time of this film's release, Witherspoon's Oscar-winning turn in Walk the Line was just two months from hitting theaters). Still, Just Like Heaven manages to overcome most of the potential cynicism by the predictable finale.
by Derek Armstrong review