The Scoop: 2005 PG-13, directed by Mark Waters and starring Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, and Jon Heder
Tagline: It’s a wonderful afterlife
Summary Capsule: Following a car accident, Dr. Reese Witherspoon finds herself haunting the new tenant in her apartment… but since he’s cute, she refrains from going all Beetlejuice on his ass.
Drew’s Rating: Show me show me show me how you do that trick, the one that makes me scream, she said…
Drew’s Review: Today, I am a man. No, wait… I mean a woman.
What you’re no doubt wondering, of course, is exactly how I got roped into seeing not just a chick flick, but possibly the chickiest flick of the year. “Sinned against the Holy Spirit” seems to be the popular choice; I see some of you nodding sagely. Others shake their heads, arguing that surely I accidentally killed my fiancee’s parents or knocked her down a flight of stairs or something. Still others bring up the time I forced her to see League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with me (though I contend that watching the movie myself was punishment enough). Or, hell, maybe I’m just an incredibly obsessive fan of The Cure.
In fact, none of these reasons is 100% true; it’s really more a combination of factors. (And her parents are expected to make a full recovery, thank you very much.) The fiancee frequently brings up in conversation her completely ridiculous notion that I only watch and review “guy” movies, which is just categorically untrue. “You should see a chick flick with me and review it, just to see if you can!” she was saying the other night, totally interrupting my “films where Pamela Anderson is topless” marathon. “Woman, please,” I replied, “you want to see girl movies reviewed, apply to be a staff member yourself. I’ve got better things to do.” The next morning I awoke, folded the couch back up, worked the crick out of my neck, and started checking out movie showtimes. Moral of the story? Compromise is not always a bad thing (and don’t piss off my fiancee).
So yes, in the grand spirit of branching out we saw Just Like Heaven, bringing us all to where we are now. So let’s talk plot, shall we? Deciding that ditzy sorority girl roles weren’t quite testing her acting range, Reese Witherspoon is now Elizabeth, a frazzled doctor going for a residency position at her hospital and far too busy for a social life. But on her way to dinner with her sister, the cat lady-in-training collides head-on with— no, not a cute guy, but rather an oncoming semi. Ouch… that’s gonna raise those insurance premiums.
Cut to several months later as David (Mark Ruffalo), a despondent widower who drinks too much, begins renting the good doctor’s apartment. Pretty soon, though, she’s popping up at random times to yell at him, so after determining it’s not just the booze (been there, buddy), David sets to work finding out who the crazy ghost is and how he can get rid of her. (Which, let’s face it, who can blame him? If that’s me and it’s a choice between Amityville Horror or listening to Reese Witherspoon whining 24/7, I’d tell you to bring on the bleeding walls.) After finding out that she’s simply in a coma rather than actually pushing up daisies, Mark and Elizabeth must race against the impending unplugging of life support and find a way to restore her spirit to her body… a process that just maybe, might conceivably involve the two falling in love with each other. Oh crap, I went and ruined it!
All kidding aside, we’re really not talking a lot of unforeseen developments here — even in a genre with a rep for being pretty formulaic, Heaven stands out as particularly predictable. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one thing that semi-surprised me, which is that David’s wife was dead rather than your classic “cheating-witch-so-you’re-rooting-for-him-to-wind-up-with-the-leading-woman-instead” stereotype. And while Witherspoon actually makes a semi-convincing doctor if you can erase the Legally Blonde stigma from your mind, at no point did I feel like the two leads had all that much chemistry together; it’s almost like the writers were glad Reese was a ghost for most of the movie, so she and Ruffalo would only have to kiss twice. I actually found the two supporting characters, David’s friend Jack and Elizabeth’s sister, much more interesting and wish we’d gotten to see more of them… kudos in particular to Donal Logue for stealing scenes from Ruffalo.
In the end, here’s what can be said about Just Like Heaven: it’s exactly what you think it is. As is the tendency in this kind of movie, you know every single plot twist and how it’s going to end before ever watching it… that’s pretty much a given. Even the stuff that potentially could get people talking is glossed over — despite the title, there are no religious overtones of any kind, there’s no nudity or sex scenes, and despite the comparisons some reactionaries have tried to draw, it’s hard to see Elizabeth’s situation — with clear, definite brainwave activity — as comparable to the Terry Schiavo case. Without trying to skimp out on a review, I honestly just don’t have much more to say… it’s a relatively bland but harmless movie. What’s going to decide your enjoyment is if you have the slightest interest in seeing Reese Witherspoon hook up with yet another hunky (or so I’m told) guy, and whether you think it’s justifiable shelling out your movie or rental money to watch a by-the-numbers, saccharine feel-good movie with a few good lines unfold in front of you. Again. For me, the answer is yes because I owed my fiancee one, and because I’m still using my student ID from 3 years ago to get discounts. (Damn the Man!) For you, though, it’s a much more dicey proposition- it’s not terrible, but I’d steer clear unless all the really good romantic comedies are sold out.
Nancy’s Rating: Resse Witherspoon, I question your ability as an actress. There. I said it. I’m glad that’s out there.
Nancy’s Review: If you will refer back to Drew’s review, girls drag guys to chick flicks. It’s the natural order of things. I don’t particularly love chick flicks. I especially despise Reese Witherspoon. I find Mark Ruffalo attractive but not enough to say “omg, I totally have to see this movie cause my boyfriend is in it!”. (Mark and I have a far more mature relationship than that.) I’m not an average girl, okay. But I looove to play up the cliche! When I’m sick, I ALWAYS put my hair up in a high ponytail, eat mint chocolate chip ice cream and watch When Harry Met Sally. On a windy autumn day, I ALWAYS walk my dog and contemplate life. So of course I wanted to drag a boy to see Just Like Heaven. How could I NOT be that girl? It’s a movie about Reese Witherspoon dying but also being in love! It’s tear-jerking (gaaww…death is saaad -puppy face-), it’s romantic (yay! Love is great!), it’s attractive (celebrities ARE good-looking, wow!) and it’s pink and fluffy like clouds in heaven (clouds are nice!).
I’m not a nut about any of those things. My problem with tear-jerkers is… well, quite frankly sometimes they jerk too hard. I hate it when I’m watching the movie and I can just say “You are soooo trying to make me cry right now, sappy film!”. I like subtlety; that’s what gets me. I like mildly sweet romantic moments, not incredible the-entire-stadium-cheers-when-we-kiss romance. I don’t like the moment where the main character dies and everyone cries; I’m more choked up later, after Sally died, and Jim references a funny joke Sally told one time and I say “Aww! Jim remembers Sally’s joke!”. So I don’t like to be jerked too hard, is my point. Just Like Heaven jerks you out of control, in every direction. It jumps up and down on a trampoline singing “I am a chick flick, look at me go! lalalala, pay attention! I am trying so hard to make you cry, laugh, contemplate love and life and also eat ice cream! wheee!”. With all that trampoline-jumping, you would think guys would be more into Just Like Heaven. But alas. No. They feel unmanly.
Which brings me to my point. It was my moral obligation as a lady to bring a guy to see this great cinematic achievement in fluffy love. Luckily, no guys date me, so I had no future relationship to taint with bitterness, always referencing in argument “AND THEN THERE WAS THAT TIME YOU MADE ME SEE JUST LIKE HEAVEN!”. So I had to bring my male friend. I didn’t even want to see it. To be honest, I just thought it would be funny. I just thought it would be a lot of fun to say “ha-HA! You saw Just Like Heaven! You are not a man!”. Sometimes I take jokes too far. Sometimes I take them just the right amount. Your decision on which of the two levels of joking I was at is pretty much determined by your gender.
Alright, a brief plot recap — Reese Witherspoon plays Super Overworked Doctor McGee (or as I like to call her, Sod-M. She sounds like a Mortal Kombat fighter that way). (Reese Witherspoon in Mortal Kombat. Priceless.) So she gets in a car accident. Cut to Mark Ruffalo, David, as a nutty slacker-ball widower who drinks too much. His character is humorous, but the writers make the shift too quickly from “David makes funny joke” to “HEY EVERYONE LOOK DAVID HAS A DRINKING PROBLEM!”. It made me feel weird, like “hahaha… ooohh… here comes the alcoholism. But I was just laughing!”. So when Reese Witherspoon starts popping up, ghost-y style, David doesn’t know what to do. Slap her? She’s not solidified enough for pain! Drown her out with alcoholic beverage? Maaaaybe… Help her? -sigh- Yes, the latter is what he chooses. And in doing so, he falls in crazy ghost love. And he’s darn lucky she’s not actually dead, because that would be icky if she was. Turns out she’s just chilling, coma-style. What does a lovelorn widower do?! See Just Like Heaven to find out!
So yes, this film IS the chick flick genre. It’s not witty enough for guys to be okay with liking it, like Clueless or Mean Girls. I have heard many guys who love these movies debate with passion that they are NOT chick flicks. I’m still waiting for that guy to show up defending Just Like Heaven. That one guy that totally loves this movie. I want to see him standing outside the theater screaming “All men! Do not fear Reese Witherspoon! This is truly a genuine great film! It is an intricate study of mankind and the ability to fall in love post-death! Really, it’s ingenious. In fact, I’m going to pay your way in, just so all can see how magical this tale truly is!”. The day that man comes, I will give him a pat on the back for being brave. And I will also alter this review, and say that this film DOES have the ability to appeal to both genders. As for now, chick-y chick-y chick flick. And not a superbly well-crafted one either.
I know the ending, you know the ending, can we skip the movie and just do the ice cream?
- Elizabeth’s home is an actual apartment once lived in by co-writer Leslie Dixon, who suggested it for the movie.
- I’m sorry, I know what I said earlier but… Reese Witherspoon as a DOCTOR? Come on now.
- Right, new rule: from now on, no more covering songs by The Cure, agreed?
- Apparently there’s a Complete Idiot’s Guide to Contacting Spirits
- Yes, that is Napoleon Dynamite as the, like, totally sweet hippie spiritualist
- Okay, the low-rent Ghostbusters (complete with theme music) were cute
- More annoying song: Henry the Eighth or Tomorrow?
- So she can’t solidify enough to pick up the phone, but she can sit in a car seat without falling through? Okaaaaaay…
- For that matter, since she warps from place to place, why does she need to ride in a car anyway?
- As Lady Luck pointed out to me, if Elizabeth can jump in David’s body and assume control, why didn’t she do that during the medical emergency in the restaurant, instead of just giving him directions?
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Absolutely, to hear the original version of Just Like Heaven. Accept no substitutes.
Jack: God gave us alcohol as a social lubricant- to make men brave, make women loose.
Elizabeth: Look, if she was working out, why was she wearing a push-up bra? The whole point’s to strap ‘em down, not push ‘em up!
Elizabeth: I’m a doctor! I may have been a lonely, home-wrecking whore, but I saved lives!
David: Oh my God, it’s you! You’re not dead!
Elizabeth: Yeah, but I’m in a coma! That’s not good.
David: Well it’s way better than dead!
Katrina: Every time I meet a cute guy- um, hello? Lesbian!
Elizabeth: Oooh, she’s got a tattoo on her ass! It says “All aboard!”
Elizabeth: What’d you tell her?
David: That I was seeing someone.
David: Well I didn’t mention that I was, uh, the only one who COULD…
David: Thanks for helping, man.
Jack: I’m not doing it for you.
David: Then why are you doing it?
Jack: Because someday I’m gonna need help moving a body, and when I do, I don’t wanna hear any [crap] from you!
Jack: Oh God, the felonies just keep pilin’ up!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Sweet Home Alabama
- That one where Julia Roberts falls in love with somebody