September 21, 2005 – Last Wednesday one of my friends acquired some free passes to an early screening of “Just Like Heaven”, a romantic comedy directed by Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”), and starring Reese Witherspoon (“Legally Blonde”) and Mark Ruffalo (“13 Going on 30”). In the film, Reese plays a spirit named Elizabeth Masterson, who was a hotshot (and more than a bit of a workaholic) young doctor on the rise until succumbing to injuries sustained in a tragic car accident. Her old apartment is sublet to David Abbott, who is in the midst of a downward spiral as a result of going through a tragedy of his own. Their paths cross when Elizabeth returns to the apartment, and they’re forced to cohabitate as man and spirit. A situation that’s further complicated by the fact that like Greta Garbo in “Grand Hotel”, David wants to be alone, and like the apparitions in “The Amityville Horror”, Elizabeth wants him to get out of her apartment. However, they are able to get past their differences once they discover that they need each other. Elizabeth needs help figuring out that she’s a spirit in the first place, and once she does, why she is and what, if anything, she can do about it, and since David’s the only one who can seem to see or hear her, she needs his help getting her the answers. Meanwhile, David, in return for helping her, gets some much needed help getting his life back on track.
“Just Like Heaven” is one of the funniest romantic comedies I’ve ever seen. The story itself is nothing special, and actually rather derivative. The lead performances by Ruffalo and Witherspoon are simply by the numbers, but elevated somewhat by the fact that they have good chemistry. Also going for them is the fact that their characters are likeable, so you root for them both together and separately, which is one of the main ingredients required for characters and movies such as these to be successful. Finally, as I mentioned, this movie has some pretty hilarious moments for a romantic comedy, and those moments are headed up by two excellent supporting players, Donal Logue (“Grounded for Life”) as David’s best friend and psychiatrist, and Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”) as a slacker psychic, who helps David and Elizabeth figure some things out.
Overall, I liked “Just Like Heaven”. It’s overly sweet and sappy, and a little too light and predictable, but nothing that’s not to be expected from this particular genre of film. It is very much your standard, by the book romantic comedy that hits all the major plot points required of that style of picture, which sounds boring and uninspired, but it’s not because it’s done so well, and those conventions, which are there for a reason, because they work, are used to the utmost. So, if you’re up for a sweet, lighthearted, and laugh-out-loud funny movie, then “Just Like Heaven” is just the ticket.