People watch romantic comedies for a very specific reason. Sure, they might watch them to get a laugh, but many people turn to romantic comedies because they like to see that undying love somehow always overcomes whatever ridiculous situation the writers decide to put it through. And that’s exactly what happens in “Just Like Heaven.”
Reese Witherspoon stars as Elizabeth Masterson, a twenty-something doctor focused solely on her career. Looking to get a resident position at a hospital in San Francisco, Elizabeth takes extra shifts and turns down plans in order to impress her supervisor.
Unfortunately for Elizabeth, the happiness of finding out that she got the residency is short-lived because she gets in a car accident on her way to dinner with friends. However, viewers don’t find out exactly what happens to Elizabeth because they are immediately introduced to a new character, David Abbott, played by Mark Ruffalo.
David is looking for an apartment to lease and won’t settle until he finds a couch that is comfortable enough for his plans of doing nothing but drinking and eating on it for the rest of his life. He finally finds the perfect apartment and learns that it’s being leased by the former renter’s family because of a “tragedy.”
As soon as David gets comfortable, he gets a visit from a spirit claiming he is in her apartment. At first, David dismisses the spirit, but soon enough he is having full conversations with, you guessed it, the spirit of Elizabeth.
The relationship between the two characters has a rocky start, from their constant fighting to David’s decision to seek professional help in getting the spirit out of the apartment. He brings in “ghost exterminators,” a priest and countless other religious/spiritual leaders who unsuccessfully try to rid him of Elizabeth’s presence.
Somewhere in that process, David realizes Elizabeth doesn’t remember anything about her life and doesn’t know why she’s a spirit. Instead of fighting, David and Elizabeth, who at this point are obviously smitten with each other, decide to figure out if Elizabeth is dead by looking for clues about her life. Soon after, they figure out what happened to Elizabeth after the accident, and David even reveals why his life has turned to drinking. The rest of the movie is filled with small surprises.
Witherspoon and Ruffalo’s chemistry almost makes you forget that the movie is predictable and cheesy at times. Witherspoon is in the role we’re used to seeing her in by now, the perfect girl you just can’t hate. She’s cute, but more importantly, funny, throughout the movie, especially in the scenes where she’s trying to annoy David out of her apartment and surviving his attempts to get her out.
Ruffalo, who is known for his darker roles such as last year’s “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” shines in his second lead role in a romantic comedy. Of course, he does get to play the lonely, gloomy guy at the beginning of the movie, but the way the character is brought back to life when he meets Elizabeth is sweet to watch.
Jon Heder, of “Napoleon Dynamite” fame, adds an extra punch of comedy to the movie. He plays Darryl, the only spiritual advisor who is able to actually sense Elizabeth and help David. His screen time is minimal, but it’s enough to make him one of the best parts of the entire film.
The plot for this movie is completely unrealistic, so if that is going to bother you, don’t see it. “Just Like Heaven” has the feeling of a fairy tale, and every once in a while, it’s good to see that kind of magic, even if it’s on a screen.