I went in to the movie “Just Like Heaven” with relatively low expectations, which worked out well because I left the theater not disappointed, but rather sufficiently pleased. Though it seemed like it would be an original romantic comedy, it followed the formula of many other films, where one of the main characters is dead – check out “Truly, Madly, Deeply” or “Ghost.”

Reese Witherspoon stars as Elizabeth, a workaholic medical resident who drinks coffee like it is her job. The writers stress to the audience that Elizabeth has absolutely no life outside of her work – including no sex life – but she is serving in an attending position, which makes us happy that she gave up her social life. She is happily driving over to her sister’s house for dinner when we see an oncoming truck and a large white light. That is the end of Elizabeth.

Or is it?

Cut to a moody, unshaven man named David, played by Mark Ruffalo, who is searching for an apartment. After looking at some of the most beautiful ones in San Francisco, he picks the one that has the best couch. It isn’t too long until the perky, blond ghost of Elizabeth starts popping up in David’s bathroom mirror and yelling at him when he doesn’t use a coaster. David then calls upon spirit cleaners, a priest and actual ghostbusters to rid the apartment of the anal-retentive ghost.

None of these work, so David does what any man would do. He turns to Napoleon Dynamite – actually the actor Jon Heder – who plays a hilarious ghost expert.

Eventually, David realizes the only way to get rid of this ghost is to help her find out who she was in her previous life, since she can’t remember.

As they embark on their journey, of course, hilarity ensues and what do you know, feelings develop. She nags him for his drinking habits and laziness and he calls her an anal-neurotic. They are the perfect couple except that she can’t grasp solid objects.

There is a slightly clever twist in the film, but not one that I couldn’t figure out 10 minutes before it occurred.

Mark Ruffalo, who has become the unexpected king of romantic comedies over the last few years, with “13 Going on 30” and “View from the Top,” is good as the disgruntled and downtrodden David. He seems, however, to accept too easily that he is seeing and talking to a fully grown woman rather than a ghost.

Witherspoon is always good, and it is very refreshing to see her in a role in which you actually believe she could get in to Harvard, unlike in “Legally Blonde.” Though the film is beautifully framed by the backdrop of San Francisco, the plot is lacking and predictable – but sometimes that is all one can handle on a Friday night.

Lepore can be reached at mlepore@campustimes.org.



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