Just Like Heaven

on September 16, 2005 by Christine James
Boy-meets-girl gets a new twist -- specifically, boy-meets-ghost-of-girl -- in this romantic comedy, which stars Mark Ruffalo as David, a young widower wallowing in depression, and Reese Witherspoon as Elizabeth, a workaholic doctor who's hit by a car and falls into a coma. Elizabeth's spirit is drawn back to her apartment, where she finds David has taken up residence. Unaware that she's non-corporeal, Elizabeth doesn't understand that her place has been sublet, and she huffily accuses Mark of breaking in. Her tirade is cut short, however, when she spontaneously disappears.

After several such mildly contentious and majorly baffling encounters, David and Elizabeth begin to figure out the truth of their situation. But a passionate embrace to the strains of "Unchained Melody" is the last thing on their minds. While Elizabeth uses her haunting abilities to nitpick about housekeeping issues, David calls up every exorcist in the phonebook, resulting in a very funny scene in which a parade of loony ghostbusters each try their hand at ousting Elizabeth, as she looks on amused. But laid-back help comes from an ultra-zen employee at a new age bookstore, Darryl (Jon Heder, almost unrecognizable without the carrot-top afro and polyester apparel, but whose appearance nevertheless incited a loving exclamation of "Napoleon!" from a member of the audience). Darryl tunes into the heart of the matter and suggests that David and Elizabeth do some figurative and literal soul-searching to find out why fate has brought them together.

Ruffalo imbues David with his usual dry humor, subtle magnetism, depth and vulnerability, while Witherspoon rather inexplicably shifts from a sweet, altruistic caregiver in her pre-coma form to what seems more like an ectoplasmic Elle Woods once she crosses over. But she's still likable and, as the couple goes through an unusual courtship involving an "All of Me"-type emergency tracheotomy, the abduction of Elizabeth's body and other adventures that cause David's ne'er-do-well best pal (Donal Logue) to exclaim, "The felonies just keep piling up!", we of course root for the "Moonlighting" dynamic to culminate in a true love connection.

Directed by Mark Waters, "Just Like Heaven" has none of "Mean Girls'" mean streak; if anything, its ending verges on the sappy. But clever writing, appealing leads and the one-two comic punch of the hilarious and lovable Heder and Logue make this date-movie "Heaven." Starring Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Jon Heder and Donal Logue. Directed by Mark Waters. Written by Ron Bass, Peter Tolan and Leslie Dixon. Produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. A DreamWorks release. Romantic comedy. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content. Running time: 97 min

Tags: Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Jon Heder, Donal Logue, Mark Waters, Ron Bass, Peter Tolan, Leslie Dixon, Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, DreamWorks, Romantic comedy, PG-13, boy-meets-girl. ghost

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