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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar- Day 21

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar- Day 21

There's something to be said about returning to the world in which you grew up, seeing everything and everyone you left behind with fresh eyes. No matter how far you moved away, no matter how much you may have changed from how you were when you were last in that place, returning can transform you back into that person you once were. This may be why so many people dislike the holidays.

Warning: Spoiler Alert! This flick has been around for quite a while but it is easy to find and your significant other and/or your entire family will be impressed that you selected it. "I thought you hated rom-coms." This one has a wicked streak a mile long. If you haven't seen it, maybe give it a watch before reading this.

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar December 21- Just Friends (2005)

Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) gets stuck in the New Jersey home where he grew up, close to Christmas, and can't get clear of the place fast enough. With time to visit some friends and show off his new physique (he was the "fat" friend last time anyone saw him, before moving to L.A. and becoming successful and good looking). As soon as he sees his old crush, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart) he decides to get revenge on her.

Oh, this is a revenge flick? Yes! Well, it's a revenge rom-com. It's not a rom-com in the traditional sense where the leads "meet cute," bicker constantly and then start smooching during the last reel throw down. No, this rom-com has teeth.

In high school, Chris absolutely loved Jamie, but she put him in the dreaded "Friend Zone" while she dated one sleaze-ball after another. Now, because he looks like Ryan Reynolds but not in a fat suit, he figures he can slip back into Jamie's world and get some "grudge loving" for all the torture she put him through. Jamie was a big tease, a flirt, and now Chris is going to get his. (Or was she? Is that just Chris's interpretation because no one likes rejection?)

Does this sound wrong? Well hell yeah it does! But this is a real thing. It happens to a lot of people, especially in high school. One person projects their "love" onto another person who does not reciprocate. This causes some kind of mental breakdown that some people never get over. It dominates their lives, they carry it around, it hardens their heart and they get this cynical outlook that everyone is the same. Because of something that happened to them when they were 15.

As Chris single mindedly marches forward on his quest for Jamie, his real feelings start to come to the surface and conflict arises.

Thankfully, Just Friends plays it for laughs. Thrown into the mix is Chris Klein as Dusty Lee, the dweeb formerly known as Dusty Dinkleman, who also loved Jamie back in the day and was also "Friend Zoned," but he really is a predator, hopping from bed to bed and looking to "even the score" with Jamie and the rest of the females of the species.

I admit, it doesn't sound funny when I write the words down and read them back, but trust me. It is funny in the same way Overboard was funny when Kurt Russell took advantage of Goldie Hawn's amnesia and kidnapped her, enslaving her in a world of servitude and free child care. Oh, man, these rom-coms are Laugh City!

It works because the cast sell these characters. Reynolds is at the top of his comedic game, especially when sparing with his younger brother and dealing with psychotic songstress Samantha James (Anna Faris). The same can be said about Klein, who is such a jerk you almost want to yell at the TV so Jamie will turn around while he's making faces behind her and catch the creep.

For anyone who enjoys senseless holiday mayhem and destruction, this film delivers.

Smart doesn't get nearly enough to do but hers is the character that is at the center of the mayhem, not so much a character who gets to react to the mayhem. Faris steals the movie whenever she's on screen and Christopher Rodriguez Marquette as little brother Mike is a spastic meteor of fast moving energy.

The real surprise is Julie Hagerty as Carol, Chris's mom. She is hilarious. She seems like a real life mom. Seriously. And when Chris is on the phone and Carol picks up and repeats, "Joyce?" I'm on the floor.

Yes, it is mean spirited but it has a heart. The Christmas setting works great as the backdrop and it works up to the expected rom-com ending. (Many people forget it takes place during Christmastime.)

Is it time to revisit this story, but maybe with a female protagonist going back to get her "revenge" on a guy she like who put her in the "Friend Zone?" I think Aubrey Plaza would crush that flick. Set it during Valentine's Day and let the chaos ensue! (Just Friends Too!)

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