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Dead weight Plot fails to lift performances by Witherspoon, Ruffalo

It's a wonderful thing when movies surprise, even a whisper-weight romantic comedy. "Just Like Heaven" is another example of "ignore the trailer; see the movie."

On the TV spots, Reese Witherspoon stomps her feet and tells the handsome Mark Ruffalo to get out of her apartment.

The adorable Witherspoon -- who, frankly, can be a bit shrill and yelly -- does pitch a few Type A fits in "Just Like Heaven," but they're part of a minor plot point. Yes, Witherspoon's Dr. Elizabeth Masterson does come home to find a depressed landscaper living in her apartment. But this is no real estate tug-of-war, a la "The Goodbye Girl."

It's more like "Ghost," or "All of Me," because David Abbot is the only person who can see or hear her, and the movie is primarily about determining Elizabeth's earthly status.

The apartment, by the way, is a classic Hollywood creation worth the price of the $8.50 movie ticket, with mahogany Mission paneling and views of the San Francisco bay and skyline.

And speaking of views, we see Mark Ruffalo (he of "In the Cut") step out of the shower three times. That's only $2.83 per scene! Talk about value for your entertainment dollar.

So while Elizabeth has it bad -- with the not knowing if she's a spirit, a ghost, if she's simply dreaming -- David's not doing much better. He's in deep mourning and spends his days on the couch, drinking beer. He's got a shrink buddy ("Grounded for Life's" Donal Logue) who's pushing him back into living, but it's only when he starts unraveling Elizabeth's mystery that his life has meaning again.

Help comes comically from Jon "Napoleon Dynamite" Heder as an occult/supernatural/UFO bookstore dude.

The chemistry between the perfectly pantsuited Witherspoon and Ruffalo is good, even if they believe in Elizabeth's predicament a little too seriously.

Things get heavy, though, when the marshmallowy comedy takes on end-of-life issues and becomes a race against the clock with a fatal consequence.

Until then, Ruffalo's spurts of physical comedy, well-delivered one-liners and charm to spare -- along with the daffy supporting characters and Witherspoon's sunny spunk -- are enough to make any movie heavenly.

JUST LIKE HEAVEN

Review: 2 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

STARRING: Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Jon Heder, Donal Logue

DIRECTOR: Mark Waters

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

RATING: PG-13 for some sexual content

THE LOWDOWN: A lonely architect falls for the spirit of a woman who used to live in his apartment.

e-mail: ebarr@buffnews.com

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