JUST FRIENDS (Roger Kumble). 96 minutes. Opens Friday (November 25). For venues and times, see Movie times. Rating: NNN
When a movie opens with a close-up of a curly-haired, fat-suited Ryan Reynolds hammily lip-synching to All-4-One's I Swear, it's pretty clear this film isn't targeting the cerebral set.
Teenager Chris (Reynolds) is overweight, laid-back and completely in love with his best friend, Jamie ( Amy Smart ). After Jamie shunts him permanently into the 10th circle of hell known as "just friends," Chris bolts. He returns by chance 10 years later a slim, smooth music exec with a shiny, psychotic celebrity ( Anna Faris ) on his arm.
While the plot of Just Friends hovers somewhere between banal and trite, its comedy succeeds with leaps, bounds and a rousing punch in the balls. Like Just Another Teen Movie, it thrives on cringe-inducing slapstick and lunacy. Faris, behaving like a chihuahua-cum-dimwit, nearly steals the film, while Chris's relationship with his brother ( Chris Marquette ) is so pure, it brings a tear to the eye of anyone once pinned down under that hanging thread of saliva.
Not to say there aren't deeper issues here, like how the world hates the overweight, overt disdain for the music industry and the masochistic nature of people caught in the "just friends" rut. But looking too closely at Just Friends is like reading the nutritional information on a Vachon cake.
Sometimes it's better not to think about it.