Just Like Heaven
May 4, 2006
Reese Witherspoon goes the old Ghost Dad route and plays a woman haunting Mark Ruffalo’s apartment until he can find a way for her to rest in peace.
You know what you’re getting with Mark Waters. With the early exception of Freddie Prince Jr. misfire Head Over Heels, he’s delivered a string of sharp teen comedies with Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls being the highlight) and has the potential to become the next John Hughes. Just Like Heaven continues his ear for light comedy, but all too often falls into corny dialogue territory and the use of Staple Comedy Best Friends to deliver exposition and then vamoose.
The premise is simple: widower David moves into a new apartment and is visited by a woman who claims she already lives there. She’s the spirit of a young workaholic doctor who died in a car accident. Neither party are keen on sharing the place, so David reluctantly decides to help Elizabeth “pass on”…except this is a romantic comedy so let’s just say a happy ending isn’t unlikely.
Ruffalo looks much more at ease in comedy territory than the po-faced back catalogue of indie dramas he surfed in on, and as for Witherspoon…they don’t pay her the big bucks for nothing. She has charm and spark to spare, and this helps raise an average script into something better than it deserves (her horror at David not using a coaster is a hoot) and Waters throws in the odd neat gag (but refreshingly, unlike most ghost movies you don’t hear a “swish” sound when Elizabeth moves through objects). But why so many awful cover songs? Witherspoon may demand as much green as Julia Roberts but that’s no excuse to skimp on the soundtrack (curiously they managed to get The Cure song).
Just Like Heaven is enjoyable thanks to its leads, but for once here’s a premise that isn’t milked enough. Early scenes with Elizabeth trying to convince David he’s mentally ill, or her possessing him in a bar in front of baffled onlookers tickle the ribs, but once the whole death thing is cheated the second half of the film becomes a cringe-worthy exercise in that dreaded genre: The Chick Flick. As for the supporting players Napoleon Dynamite actor Heder comes off as a sort of cheap Wayne’s World meets the blue-haired woman in Mulholland Drive, and best friend Logue phones in the concerned-but-all-too-helpful-with-transporting-bodies best bud. A predictable ending doesn’t help matters, which is a shame as there’s a lot to like here. When will they learn that you don’t need characters to blurt “I love you!” to have it be romantic?
A less than stellar gag reel is made up for somewhat by the deleted scenes which include Elizabeth flying and a darker (but funny) “alternate” ending. The two featurettes, Meeting The Cast and The Making of Just Like Heaven are fairly standard fifteen-minute interviews (did you know Witherspoon’s sister is played by the director’s wife?) finished off by a lively producer/director’s commentary.
Not quite heaven, but certainly not hell.