The night of their high-school graduation party, dorky, overweight Chris (Ryan Reynolds) tells his best friend, Jamie (Amy Smart), that he wants to be her boyfriend. After her diplomatic rejection and some mockery from the jackass jocks, he leaves the party (and town), vowing to "show everyone" someday. And bam, 10 years later he's a glamorous, fit L.A. record producer (because these things just happen) who finds himself back in Jersey with his high-maintenance, teeny-bopper client Samantha (UW grad Anna Faris from the Scary Movie films). He predictably runs into Jamie, but every possible mishap deprives him of the chance to impress her with his makeover. From injuring small children during peewee hockey games to destroying her family's extravagant holiday lights to body-slamming fellow former-nerd-turned-competition Dusty (Chris Klein) at a holiday concert, it's just one mess after another.
So is the movie. It doesn't take much punching, crotch kicking, and Taser wielding to define a plot of tedious slapstick. This leaves us to focus on important questions like, does Reynolds actually wear foundation, or is his face just naturally orange-tinted? Why do all chubby high-schoolers have falsetto voices? And why should we care about such an extremely unlikable protagonist? From whiney teen nerd to asshole businessman is just not a compelling character arc.
Luckily, one character does make Friends somewhat bearable. Not Amy Smart as the cute but dull love interest, but Faris as the slutty pop princess with a whispery voice, tousled hair, and desperate desire to emulate Ashlee Simpson. She brings consistent humor and vitality to a movie otherwise lacking those qualities. (Some will also recall her similarly sending up ditsy diva-hood in Lost in Translation.) She's not exempt from the slapstick, which includes Tasering Reynolds' private parts—which, in truth, he deserves. I hope she got the filmmakers, too. (PG-13)