I haven't actually watched this one since it was in theaters back in 2005. At the time, I remember having a lot of fun with it, laughing at Ryan Reynolds' actions the same way we laugh at him in the 'Deadpool' movies now. This viewing was one I still had fun with, but it's not quite what I remembered. I had this listed as "Under the Radar" because I feel like no one talks about it anymore, and it falls under the "forgotten" category. Although I feel like one can still enjoy this, given its subject matter, it's a bit dated with some of its terminology. More on that later.
The film opens in 1995, where an overweight high school senior named Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is crushing hard on his best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). He confesses his feelings to her in her yearbook, which gets read aloud by her ex boyfriend, Tim (Ty Olsson). Despite Jamie thinking it was incredibly sweet, Chris is ruthlessly made fun of for it. To rub salt in his wound, Jamie also mentions how good of a "friend" he is, hence the film's title. Chris storms off and leaves town, claiming he'd make something of himself. Sure enough, fast-forward ten years, and he has lost weight, and become a successful record producer and womanizer - just about the opposite of what he was ten years prior.
Chris is asked by his CEO, KC (Stephen Root) to accompany a pop singer he once dated, Samantha James (Anna Faris) to Paris. The idea is to butter her up, so she'll sign with the company's label. Chris reluctantly agrees, knowing what he's getting into, having their relationship end with him in the hospital. Thing go awry almost immediately when Samantha sets fire to her private jet by putting tinfoil in its microwave. This causes them to make an emergency landing in New Jersey, close to Chris' hometown. This allows Chris to bring Samantha to his mother's house to spend the night, or however long they need.
Chris and Samantha hit up the town that night, where Chris runs into more of his past, including friends Clark (Fred Ewanuick), Darla (Amy Matysio) and of course, Jamie, who Chris realizes he has some mixed emotions for. He figures that now that he's made something of himself, he can simply seduce her and basically be shallow about things in a bit of a revenge plot. But somewhere deep down, is still the sweet, chubby man child he once was, and little by little he realizes his feelings are more genuine than his plans. This is especially true when he gets some competition in the form of Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein); someone even lower on the high school totem pole than he was, who has also seemingly made something of himself.
As mentioned earlier, I personally find myself still enjoying this movie despite a few dated aspects about it. The key to it is the whole "just friends" theme it plays; a zone I know all too well. I suppose to keep it short, this is a movie that suggests that the whole "friend zone" thing doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, AND that if you play your cards right as the friend, it COULD (no promises, whatsoever) lead to something deeper eventually down the line. It's a movie that suggests we need to just be ourselves if we want results, and not try so hard to impress. It's kind of an old and cliche message, I suppose, but it's also one that speaks to me on a personal level. I mean, why would you want to be with someone who doesn't like and appreciate you for you?
For my money, the film's funny aspects generally come a lot from the side characters. Chris' mother (Julie Hagerty) was a good laugh, being a touch senile, but ever so sweet. She's a bit of a reflection of Aunt Bethany from 'Christmas Vacation'. A lot of the loose throwing around of "gay is bad" comes from Chris' brother, Mike (Christopher Marquette) and it's something I can't quite wrap my head around. The kid is an 18-year-old dummy type in 2005, so I feel like one could see it as satire just as easily as one could find it offensive. A lot of his humor comes from the sibling rivalry he has with Chris, along with his obsession with Samantha.
Whether or not this is your cup of tea, it's a movie I still enjoy for myself. There's a lot of good laughs here, and by the end, an interesting message for those perpetually caught in that friend zone. To me, the film basically tells us how much of a pain in the ass the friend zone is, but with the right amount of patience, it can possibly lead to something great. The funny thing is, the whole movie ends on a gag that suggests this is something that's bound to happen to just about anyone, and it happens so quick, you hardly even realize it. It's not an annual watch for me, and honestly, Christmas is only really a backdrop for it. But there's a bitter yet humorous reality to it I can't help but appreciate, and I still get plenty of laughs through it.
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