Finally, a romantic comedy that addresses the Terry Schiavo debate! In Mark Waters’s Just Like Heaven, workaholic doctor Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon) is hit by a car on her way to a blind date, wakes to find her apartment occupied by a drunken stranger named David (Mark Ruffalo), and soon discovers that she’s a spirit disconnected from her comatose corporeal self. Which, one can infer, means that this otherworldly vehicle for the ever-cute Witherspoon argues in favor of maintaining life support in cases of vegetative states, if only because the injured woman’s “ghost” might be lurking beside her own bed (dressed in a stylishly casual black-and-red outfit, no less) screaming for her caregivers not to pull the plug. Still, given the film’s slavish devotion to genre conventions, it’s hardly surprising to find this topical issue being utilized as merely a means for creating race-against-time third-act suspense focused on David and Elizabeth—after falling in love despite the absence of physical contact—desperately trying to prevent her motionless body from being manually shut down. Employing shots of downy San Francisco clouds and wind-blown “For Rent” flyers to convey his story’s otherworldly aura, Waters competently charts his pleasant leads through the first-they-fight, then-they-fancy-each-other motions, but the resulting familiarity of its narrative twists and turns makes this tediously hackneyed film feels as if it were constructed on a rom-com assembly line. For “humorous” flavoring, Jon Heder behaves like a hippie-dippy stoner version of Napoleon Dynamite as a psychic who counsels David and Elizabeth, confirming that his acting ability consists mainly of trying to keep his heavy-lidded eyes half-open. Wanting to not watch Just Like Heaven‘s rote romanticism, however, is a perfectly natural desire, especially after the script begins overtly linking Elizabeth and David—the latter of whom is still mourning the unexpected loss of his wife—as kindred lonely, emotionally dead souls. (Spoiler herein.) Witherspoon’s sleeping beauty is eventually awakened in typical storybook fashion, but Waters finds it nearly impossible to generate stimulation from a lovey-dovey narrative formula so lifeless it wouldn’t register on any ER equipment.
- Mark Waters
- Peter Tolan, Leslie Dixon
- Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Donal Logue, Dina Spybey, Ben Shenkman, Jon Heder, Ivana Milicevic, Rosalind Chao
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