Saturday, September 17, 2005

REVIEW: Just Like Heaven

I know some of you are seeing the trailers for this and thinking, "wait.. didn't this already suck once as 'Ghost?'" I know this because I was thinking the same thing, and I'm rarely quick enough to have told a joke first.

Either way, we were both wrong. Totally wrong. Here, instantly, is one of the best romantic comedies of the year. And I say this as someone who typically loathes romantic comedies. Each day comes with it's surprises.

This much you know from the trailer: Reese Witherspoon is Elizabeth, a workaholic do-gooding doctor who's skooshed in a car crash in the opening moments of the film. Mark Ruffalo is David, a depressed but good natured guy who rents a furnished San Fransisco apartment only to discover it's haunted... by Elizabeth's ghost. After some slapsticky playacting in "Beetlejuice" territory as to her innability to admit her own death and the first of three surprise plot twists, the real story is up and running: Solving the mystery of why Elizabeth hasn't crossed over and why David is apparently the only one who can see her now. Oh, and falling in love with one-another, of course.

Help on all these tracks comes in the form of an occult bookstore owner (Jon Heder, late of "Napolean Dynamite") who drops by to explain the film's hook: Elizabeth is way too alive to be dead, and for a live person David is way too dead inside. Get it? Also on hand is Donal Logue as David's psychiatrist buddy, who helps out in the third act when some lightly-illegal slaptick rescuing is required.

Yes, it's all just too cute for words. But it works, because the leads are good at this, because the supporting cast is efficiently used and the script is a great deal smarter than it needed to be. The supernaturality of the plot is actuality it's main non-romance focus, as opposed to a contrivance. The result is that, while it certainly works as romantic comedy, this is actually one of the more accutely spiritual movies to rear it's head in awhile.

About the actual plot not much more can be said. The film turns on a series of surprise revelations about the circumstances of it's protagonists, the "big" one of which I personally found a little easy to guess but the second of which really caught me off gaurd and changed the nature of the film for the better. (A third, concerning the possible extra identity of a supporting player, is saved for the coda.)

There's really not much more to say other than... what a nice surprise. I really enjoyed this one, highly reccomended for the date crowd or otherwise.

FINAL RATING: 8/10