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Film review: Smug Reynolds is no Chevy Chase

JUST FRIENDS — * 1/2 — Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris; rated PG-13 (vulgarity, slapstick violence, profanity, brief sex, brief drugs); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16; Cinemark 24 at Jordan Landing; Megaplex 12 at the Gateway; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons.

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds is not the next Chevy Chase, even if clueless filmmakers keep trying to convince us otherwise.

Reynolds does have some of Chase's trademark snarkiness, but the star of such comic bombs as "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" and "Waiting . . . " is already more insufferably smug than Chase became as the years passed.

That becomes woefully obvious after just a few minutes of "Just Friends," a transparent Farrelly brothers knock-off that tries to get by on Reynolds' supposed charms.

He stars as Chris, who is still stinging from emotional wounds inflected by a childhood friend, Jamie (Amy Smart), who rejected his romantic advances.

In the 10 years since then, he's lost considerable weight and is now living in Hollywood, where he's reinvented himself as love-'em-and-leave-'em womanizer. He's also working in the music industry and is serving as the manager for the spoiled-rotten and possible psychotic Samantha James (Anna Faris).

Thanks to Samantha, a flight carrying the two of them is forced down in New Jersey, Chris' former home. And a chance encounter with Jamie gives him the chance to show off a different side.

Director Roger Kumble ("The Sweetest Thing") and screenwriter Adam "Tex" Davis take things from there in directions that are all too predictable, and most of the attempts at humor are painfully unfunny. Faris' cruel parody of such vacant would-be musical stars as Ashlee Simpson is amusing at first, but even that gets old after awhile.

But at least that subplot is diverting, which is more than you can say for Reynolds' insincere and unconvincing turn as a former nice guy. Frankly, it would be easier to buy his co-star Chris Klein in that role; at least he seems genuine.

"Just Friends" is rated PG-13 for crude sexual references and slang terms, as well as other sexual humor, slapstick violence (including pratfalls and some hockey violence), scattered use of strong profanity, some brief sexual contact, and some brief drug content (prescription painkiller abuse). Running time: 96 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com