Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Just Like Heaven

The new Reese Witherspoon vehicle is a watchable, fairly slushy romantic comedy. It is sprinkled with occasional laughs, several doe-eyed moments and a ridiculously heart-warming ending. If you like movies that make you feel just that little bit better about yourself afterwards, by all means check in here.

David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) is a young man who rents an apartment in San Francisco. It transpires his home is haunted by Elizabeth Masterson (Ms Witherspoon). What unfolds is the development of feelings between man and ghost (does this sound familiar? Ghost maybe?), not particularly funny scenes involving Ruffalo appearing demented as he talks to thin air, and then the pulling of heart strings as Elizabeth comes back to life.

There is nothing particularly bad about this film, but that’s essentially because it succeeds in limiting itself to its target genre. Witherspoon slips into this role with ease, mainly because this is her staple diet in movieland. Ruffalo has some charm as the male lead, but his role could have been filled by a dozen other young American actors. There are, of course, the standard supporting characters: Elizabeth’s sassy and protective older sister, Abby (Dina Waters), David’s sympathetic drinking buddy, Jack (Donal Logue), and John Heder (Napoleon Dynamite star) as David’s spiritual adviser. You can almost guess the lines these characters are going to come out with.

And that is the film’s only tangible problem; its absolute lack of surprise. Right from the moment it is revealed Elizabeth is not dead but in a coma, everyone knows her love for David will bring her out of it.

There are a couple of interesting themes that flash briefly, but the director and script writers have no interest in pursuing them. The issue of Elizabeth being a ghost is used purely for comic value and to extract tears from the audience. The fact that David has lost his wife just serves as the reason for his moodiness, and it takes Elizabeth to draw him out of his shell. Even the end, when things take a screwball turn as David and Jack attempt to kidnap Elizabeth’s body to prevent her life support machine being turned off, is not developed. Instead everything quickly resolves to allow a beautiful shot of David and Elizabeth together in the garden he designed for her (he’s a landscape artist, she loves landscapes, aren’t they made for each other?).

Just Like Heaven is just like every other stereotypical romantic comedy ever made. It does, however, lack the sophistication of say the Jennifer Lopez/George Clooney movie Out of Sight, real chemistry between the lead actors a la Ghost, or even the reasonably amusing humour in early Hugh Grant films.

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